News of world soccer governing body FIFA banning celebrated Zambian football legend Kalusha Bwalya did not come as a surprise. It was merely a continuation of the global bans that FIFA has long been dishing out to various players in the corrupt strewn Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup bid. King Kalu as his worshippers love to refer to him has been living on borrowed time. Bwalya was part of the cronies that disgraced former FIFA President Sepp Blatter, himself a banned official, relied to buy votes during auctions for World Cup bid. Kalusha was one of Blatter’s blue eyed boys on the continent and thrived off the money and fame the alliance afforded him. But it was not this association with Blatter that proved his final undoing but his well-documented lust for money. Anyone who has hang around the Great One testifies to his weakness with the green, even where he does not deserve it. It was the ease with which he became used with soliciting for bribes with the most sensational being the US$80, 000 he corruptly obtained from disgraced Qatari businessman and former FIFA Vice President Mohammed Bin Hammam. Bwalya unashamedly confessed taking the bribe that was deposited in his personal account claiming yali ninkongole (it was a debt). He was also fingered by the world famous Sunday Times in the United Kingdom as one of the officials that received bribes for voting for the Qatar bribe.
It was not uncommon for Kalusha to harvest match appearance fees with the US$1.5 million paid by Brazil in 2013 for an international friendly not reflected anywhere in the accounts at FAZ. Zambia was paid a similar amount by Japan for another exhibition match with the resources vanishing in thin air. Asking questions about some of the deals that Kalusha struck through his wife Emmie Cassallati’s sports Management Company was not welcomed by a very idolizing public. It was this kind of questioning that landed veteran sports journalist Augustine Mukoka on the wrong end of Kalusha’s slap in South Africa. It may not be flattering to an army of idolizing fans of Kalusha’s heroics on the pitch that earned him the 1988 African Footballer of the Year accolade to highlight his shady side off the pitch.
In truth Kalusha never heeded any advice to go easy on dirty deals that even robbed the country of the once esteemed Nike deal. Now Zambia is still struggling for a credible shirt sponsor. It was always going to end one way for the former celebrated icon. He may have very easily been the first Zambian to attract a FIFA ban from Southern Africa but thankfully Botswana national Ishmael Bhamjee beat him to that accolade. It may not be the two years that will be the problem for Kalusha as the appeal that he has promised his followers with will come at a cost of US$30, 0000 non-refundable. Does he have the luxury of spending that money? Maybe complying with the ban also presents a catch 22 for Kalusha as he has been fined US$100, 000 (K1 million rebased). There could also be the possibility of having the ban lengthened as he has shown no remorse. If Blatter, Jerome Valcke, Jack Warmer and a legion of African administrators that were pioneers in bans like the Ivorian Amos Adamu did not survive, what gives Kalusha the audacity to think he has a credible defence for his self-confessed indiscretion? We have not heard of any of these bans being reversed so far, so we can only fold our arms and watch the drama unfold.