ELEGANT, GRACEFUL DEFENDER
Birth and roots
Born in the mining town of Chingola, on 18 October, 1969, Robert Watiyakeni shares the same roots with former Nchanga Rangers and Zambia midfielder, Willie Phiri, in birth terms.
Style of play
Watiyakeni was almost unbeatable in aerial tussles. He made it a point to be first on the ball. That he would start and finish a match without being beaten to the ball, is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Elegant, graceful, the towering gentle giant, though he lacked real pace, was the budge of steadfastness. If former Zambia central defender and captain Ackim Musenge epitomized tackling smartness, Robby too was just as clean, fair and professional. When he went in for a tackle, there was no mistake as to who would win the battle: Watiyakeni.
His calmness in the face of danger would be likened to that of former deputy Zambia captain Dick Chama, later full skipper of the then KK11, in the mid-1970s, or Ackim Musenge, the former schoolboy international who also turned up for Butondo Western Tigers and, more famously, for Mufulira Wanderers.
Just like it was a rarity to beat Chama or Musenge, both in aerial tussels or on the ground, the same was true with Watiyakeni during his brief but exciting time with Zambia, under Chitalu and Chola tutorship, as headcoach and assistant trainer respectively.
Watiyakeni’s career at the highest level began at Nchanga Rangers (1980 and 1998 winners), the two-time topflight Zambian champions before switching allegiance to Power Dynamos, the six-time Premier league winners (1984, 1991, 1994, 1997, 2000 and 2011).
The central defence partnership that Robert Watiyakeni, with fellow Gabon air disaster victim Eston Mulenga authored, has been hailed as one of the best the Chipolopolo as ever had.
Seeing the two play for Zambia was like in a dream. The twosome would hardly make a mistake. It was more like the two were designed for each other.
Telepathy was a trait that they had in abundance and they seemed to have studied each other’s movements like magicians displaying their skills at a circus. The duo was simply flawless in carrying out their duties and responsibilities.