Zambia’s Iconic Captain Dies

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar July 5, 2019 21:10

Zambia’s Iconic Captain Dies

By Satish Sekar in Egypt © Satish Sekar (June 29th 2019)

Zambian Legend

Dickson Makwaza, the longest serving captain Zambia ever had, died in his sleep aged 76 in the early hours of June 29th. Makwaza led Zambia to one of its greatest achievements. IN 1974 Egypt hosted the Africa Cup of Nations for the second time. The Pharaohs included African legend Mahmoud el Khatib and also AFCON icon Hassan Shehata in their side. Shehata went on to lead Egypt to an unprecedented three consecutive titles (2006-2010).

Known as ‘Barbed Wire’ for his obdurate defending, Makwaza led Zambia to their first Africa Cup of Nations Finals in 1974 with a 5-1 thrashing of Nigeria. Remarkably, a decade after independence, Zambia reached the final on debut.

Only Mali two years earlier achieved that feat without hosting the event (Ethiopia achieved that feat in 1957, but it was the first, and with only three teams, so an appearance in the final of a foreign team was guaranteed before a ball was kicked).

Zambia’s achievement deserves recognition at this AFCON, especially as Makwaza is the first AFCON icon to die during this tournament. He first captained Zambia in 1967, rotating with others until 1969. He took the armband until his retirement in 1975.


He took over in central defence for Zambia from the late Roan United player, Ken Banda, who died last September. Banda, and his friend, Ginger Pensulo, were the first to get a trial in English football with Leeds United in 1963. They were not signed but opened the door for others.


Makwaza and the 1974 Zambia team returned to heroes’ welcome despite losing to Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo) after a replay. The first final ended 2-2. Simon Kaushi and Brighton Sinyangwe scored for Zambia and the late Pierre N’Daye Mulamba scored his 6th and 7th of the tournament.

In the replay, the only AFCON Final ever to go to a replay, N’Daye scored his 8th and 9th, to equal and surpass the 8 scored by the late Laurent Pokou in 1970. Last April, Nkana great, and veteran of the 1974 AFCON finalists, Simon ‘Stone’ Chibwe, passed away after a short illness, never recovering from a bout of malaria.

Makwaza, whose career started in 1961 for Mulfulira Mine Team, which later morphed into Mufulira Wanderers, a team he later coached, was born in Livingstone in 1942. He was appointed Zambia’s captain, serving for the best part of a decade before relinquishing the armband in 1975. He described Chibwe’s death as a great loss to football.

Makwaza was the first defender to be named Zambian Footballer of the Year in 1973.
He coached several teams and was deputy to the legendary Samuel ‘Zoom’ Ndhlovu in the 1988 Olympic Games, where a young Kalusha Bwalya helped stun Italy 4-0.

He was honoured by then President, Kenneth Kaunda, after Zambia’s performance in those Olympic Games. Makwaza remained involved in football until well into his seventies. He fell seriously ill earlier this year.

Lost in his achievements is his start. The Livingstone-born, Makwaza was keen to honour the part played by footballers there in helping to integrate Zambian football a generation before the National Football League built upon those foundations, delivering a semi-professional and integrated league. Two and a half years later Zambia was independent. Makwaza was one of almost 20 former players still active from that era. Makwaza was keen to ensure that Livingstone’s role in Zambia’s development through football was acknowledged properly. Makwaza was also a coach and mentor to among others, Zambian great, Kalusha Bwalya.

A compassionate and decent man, Makwaza never forgot the role others played in his development. As the Roan United great, Ginger Pensulo (John Mulenga) aged without getting the help he needed, Makwaza was one of the only people who cared and helped. Who will take up the cudgels for Pensulo and others of his generation now?

Liberation Footballer

Makwaza is not just a Zambian football icon, he was one of the liberation footballers who played a part in Zambia’s independence struggle.

Nigerian great, Olusegun Odegbami paid tribute even though they had never met on the pitch.
“The African continent is littered with the story of stars forgotten and neglected for lack of documented history,” Odegbami said.

“AFCON will do well to do more to document and occasionally celebrate its great legends of the game like Dickson Makwaza through all generations.”

Among those to pay tribute to Makwaza are Ghanaian and Cameroonian legends, Ibrahim Sunday, Asamoah Gyan and Joseph Antoine Bell.

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar July 5, 2019 21:10