Luke’s World: let’s hear it for Zambia, Sunderland and Porterfield

Luke Harvey

In truth, the Sunderland link may seem slight as Afcon 2012 prepares for launch. A glance at our history offers a reminder of its mighty origins. Luke Harvey explans …

The looming African Cup of Nations held in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon signals what many pundits deride as an unnecessary distraction from the Premier League.

This blatant disregard for Africa’s premier national team tournament is quite evident amongst the media.

Questions are raised about the sheer gall of Africa to have a tournament during the sacred Premier League season. And while the effect the tournament has on teams in the Premier League is often over-exaggerated, the tournament is a showcase for some of the brightest up and coming players from the continent.

Many of the players involved have defied the odds to make themselves a success in some of the strongest leagues in Europe; many more dream of following them.

As Sunderland fans we may struggle to find any affiliation with any of the participating nations. There would have been Ahmed Elmohamady had Egypt managed to qualify. As they, along with other large nations such as Cameroon, DR Congo, Nigeria and South Africa, failed to do so, Elmohamady will remain on Wearside, however much many fans would have been glad to see the back of him for a month or so.

But if you are looking for a nation to lend your support to, and you really should consider it, then look no further than Zambia.

The Chipolopolo, translated as the Copper Bullets, open their campaign against Senegal on the first day of the tournament. Now this isn’t a piece about how we should opt for the “anyone but Senegal” mantra because two of their strikers – Demba Ba and Papiss Cissé – play for Newcastle. I wouldn’t be so childish.

In fact, Zambia and Sunderland share a link. Perhaps it’s somewhat tenuous but finding a legitimate link between a midtable Premier League team and an African nation isn’t exactly straightforward.

The late Ian Porterfield, our FA Cup hero of 1973 provides it. In 1993, some 20 years after that volley against Leeds gave us our last taste of major silverware, Porterfield spent a year as manager of Zambia, the first of many obscure national team appointments for the globetrotting Scotsman which included the likes of Zimbabwe and Oman in the years after.

From an old birthday card sent to M Salut

Porterfield was installed as manager for a nation who were still in mourning. Zambia were reeling from the aircraft disaster that claimed the lives of 30 men – 18 players, four staff members including head coach Godfrey Chitalu, five crew members and three others, the FAZ Chairman, a public servant and a journalist. All passengers on board were killed when the plane crashed due to engine failure off the coast of Gabon.

The team were on their way to play Senegal.

To taste success in this year’s tournament, Zambia must first negotiate a tough group stage, the aformentioned Senegal boasting a strike force that puts many experienced European nations to shame: Mamadou Niang, Moussa Sow, and Newcastle’s Ba and Cissé. As well as one of the tournament favourites, Zamia will also have the company of one of the tournament hosts, Equatorial Guinea, who will be buoyed by the boisterous home crowds.

Finally Zambia will have a Libyan team who have overcome their own recent adversity to reach this stage.

Having begun qualification in a country led by the dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Libya now go into this tournament with a different government, a new flag and a new national anthem. Their qualification is made all the more remarkable given that one fixture had to be played with the omission of Tripoli-based players due to fighting in the city.

For Zambia a final held at the Stade d’Angondjé in Libreville, Gabon is at stake. And an opportunity for a pilgrimage to the site where one of the brightest Zambian teams tragically perished.

In the months following the crash a makeshift Zambian team, put together by the captain Kalusha Bwalya – who had not been on the flight – completed a successful qualification stage for the 1994 African Cup of Nations and nearly went all the way, only to be defeated in the final by a superior Nigerian team.

Nineteen years on and Zambia could well display the determination that saw them to the final in ’94 and ultimately appreciated as national heroes once more. For Zambia to reach the final, however improbable, you feel it would be a nod in the direction of destiny.

18 thoughts on “Luke’s World: let’s hear it for Zambia, Sunderland and Porterfield”

  1. I’m not sure what all the fuss is about having read the article and the subsequent responses to it.

    It seems to me that the exception Phil is taking to Luke’s piece is because of the angle he uses, rather than factual inaccuracies per se, and would prefer it if Luke had written a completely different article.

    You have a lot to say about it Phil and you are knowledgable about the subject. How about writing an article about the AFCON, rather than just panning Luke’s and quite unfairly in my view.

  2. Oh I also feel I should point out that Zambia defied the odds and defeated Senegal in their group opening match – so the fairytale is well and truly on.

    Up the Zambia!

  3. Don’t understand this at all. We should be encouraging younger contributors and acknowledging their input.

    Luke has written a perfectly valid and well researched piece. I am uncomfortable with Phil’s response, and surprised as I always find his contributions thoughtful and relevant.

    I am sure this won’t put you off contributing further to the site Luke and I look forward to reading more from you.

  4. I am wondering what it really is that has Phil so stressed up. First it was a passing mention that the media could perhaps give the tournament a bit more coverage. Now it is the British education system and teachers in general who are at fault.

    You’re not a closet Ofsted inspector or Coventry City fan are you Phil?

  5. I can defend myself perfectly well, but given I only noticed the article was on the website late on Friday and Saturday was spent travelling to and from Sunderland for the match without access to a computer, it seems people stepped in to defend me.

    That and I would have chosen not to.

    If you have any questions regarding Finance Administration at Cumbria County Council then feel free to ask, I should be able to help you with that. 🙂

  6. Thanks guy for the positive feedback. If I ever write anything Phil enjoys I think I will have performed above and beyond all expectations. 🙂

    • Your article, for me, would have been far more interesting if you had based it upon the rise of African football, their players and the way that the ACN has not reflected that.

      When it was first played for (in 1957) how many African footballers played outside of the continent?

      The answer is very few and, of those that did, most had dual nationality, because of colonialism – Eusabio, for example was born in Mozambique, when it was Portuguese East Africa, but represented Portugal.

      Times, though, have changed and (IMHO) the ACN should reflect that.

      Now, African footballers are important players in many of, not just, European leagues but many other leagues throughout the world, with the vast majority of those league’s seasons running from (approx.) August to May.

      Would not, therefore, the ACN better serve the African players by being held during June & July, between the years set aside for the World Cup & European Championships?

      That is, in addition to the desire of the organisers to hold it every two years, which seems nonsensical when looking at the interests of the players involved!

      These, for me, are far more interesting questions than just commenting upon the, parochial, effect on the Premier league!

      • For the record – and with a general request for contributions that maintain dignity – I should point out that the author is no longer pursuing a journalistic career or training but has regular, non-media employment. He writes for Salut! as, I believe, he writes for others on his passion for football. No one gets paid for writing here – beyond the occasional pittance I’ve been able to put Mr Sixsmith’s way (even the word pittance probably exaggerates the point) and the modest help advertising and merchandise sales make towards running costs – but I did regard Luke’s piece as perfectly professional, relevant and interesting.

      • If anyone found my use of the word “coward” offensive I would apologise – the word “moral” should, maybe, have prefaced it.

        However, I would lay the blame for my agitation, firmly at the door of the UK teaching “profession”.

        In days of yore pupils were expected to learn what they were taught and then utilise that knowledge to succeed in examinations.

        That then changed when the lunatics (teachers) were allowed to take over the asylum and dictate to the D.O.E.

        The result was examinations with multiple choice answers where nobody had to, even, justify their selection.

        That belief would appear to have gravitated, to this website.

        To be able to, anonymously, tick a box without having to justify it seems, to me, to be on par!

        Still, cest la vie, we must move on and accomodate those, seemingly, incapable of expressing themselves.

        With regard to Luke, I would congratulate him upon his, apparent, objectivity and wish him well in his latest choice of career.

        Hopefully, his choice will be one in which he feels able to defend himself, rather that rely on others to do that!

      • Two further points, Colin, when I used the word “professional” I was using it in the context of one who earns a living by virtue of his/her chosen career – not who appears to know/understand what he/she is talking about.

        Regarding the remuneration (or otherwise) given to contributors, of articles, that is NONE of my business and I hope that you did not read anything into my comment which impied that it was!

      • Role on the edit button (if possible).

        Two, obvious, mistakes.

        1) In my first reply, on the last line, should have been “than”, not “that”.


        2) In my second reply (again on the final line) implied should contain an “l”.

  7. The article is written about the English perspective of the African Cup of Nations, so I’m not clear why Mr Johnson is taking exception to the comments which Luke makes.

    This is a very worthwhile article which raises valid questions about the paradox associated the media disdain and disinterest in a tournament which had been gathering a lot more publicity and attention in recent years, as more African stars emerged in the top leagues.

    It doesn’t seem at all controversial in nature either. Topical and relevant to current events.

    I suggest you get back into bed Mr Johnson and emerge from the other side, and hopefully in better humour.

    • Maybe, I did not make myself clear on the way that I was interpreting the content of the article.

      IIRC, Luke is not just an amateur, who has submitted an article.

      If that were to be the case I, certainly, would have not responded as I did.

      Instead, he is someone who aspires to be a professional journalist and should expect to be judged accordingly.

      I would have thought that he would recognise, and appreciate that.

      If he doesn’t, then I would suggest that he should change his ambitions!

  8. Your article suggests that only the British clubs and media have an issue with the ACN.

    What balderdash!!

    If, just for once, you were to check your facts before attempting to be controversial, you will find that is not just an English/British problem.

    It is, indeed, one that is, not only, commented upon throughout Europe but in any country, on any continent which has a season running (roughly) from August to May.

    In addition, the fact that it is held every two years (rather than the norm. of 4 for other major tournements) does not help matters.

    It would seem that you have a lot to learn, if you wish your articles/opinions to be, seriously, regarded.

    Researching the facts would be a good place to start!

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