TOUGH DEFENDER, SMOOTH-OPERATING MIDFILDER
Birth and roots
Samuel Chomba was born, like most of the players who he perished together with in the April 1993 Gabon plane crash, in the mining town of Kitwe on January 5, 1964.
Style of play and nickname
A central defender-cum-midfielder, Chomba was noted for man-to-man-marking and used his bulky body to shield off his opponents with supreme authority. So solid he was on the ball that it was almost impossible to either remove him off or indeed dispossess him.
Allied to this was second-to-none aggregation which at times bordered on belligerence.
In a way, immovability draws close comparison with Manchester City and Ivory Coast’s middle-of-the-park maestro Yaya Toure or former Manchester United and Republic of Ireland midfield-governor general Roy Keane widely regarded in United folklore as arguably the most inspirational captain of all time, often compared with Bryan Robson and Eric Cantona.
Samuel Chomba belonged to the versatile specimen of players who were able to play in more than one position and produce the same excellence in performance. Both at club and national level, he was able to play sparingly – either in central defence or as a defensive midfielder.
What is for sure is the fact that the name Samuel Chomba will forever be associated with Kabwe Warriors owing to his almost eternal playing career, aside a brief spell at South African side Dynamos in 1992.
While at Warriors, Chomba won ten (10) major honours in addition to the Charity Shield wins.
Chomba’s first honour with the Railway Ground (Godfrey Chitalu Stadium) team, came in in 1984 when his side beat Profund Warriors (NAPSA Stars), 2-1 in the Independence Cup final at Lusaka’s INpendence Stadium in October of that year.
Warriors struck through Zambia forward Jack Chanda while the second goal was an own goal by beaten-finalists defender Aswell Nyendwa.
Profund’s consolation was converted courtesy of Ken Mwansa.
Three years later, Chomba, aged 23, savoured real success at Warriors when his team harvested a treble of the Premier league title, the Independence Cup for the second time and the champion of Champions Cup.
In winning the big one – the Premier League crown, chomba alongside fellow Gabon Air Disaster victim Whiteson Changwe in the back four, helped his side in emerging with the 4th meanest defence at the end of the season as Warriors conceded 31 goals in 26 matches behind 8th finishers Nkana Red Devils (23 goals), second-finishers Power Dynamos (26 goals) and 5th placed Ndola United who allowed in 27 goals.
Chomba’s 1987 Independence Cup victory with Warriors came in a 3-2 defeat of Power Dynamos, the team the Blues of Railway Ground would also edge out in the top-flight title race. Among the Warriors’ scores were Maxon Mugala and Linos Chisanga. Chomba’s success story at Warriors goes on…
The year 1988 saw Chomba and colleagues emerge victors only in the Charity Shield when they defeated Mutondo Stars 2-1 in a final played at Lusaka’s Independence Stadium with the one and only Timothy Mwitwa and Christopher Kunda sharing the spoils while Edward Chimba replied for the Premier League new entrants.
The 1990 season brought in two honours for the Zambia defender and his Warriors from the Railway Ground, winning the BP Challenge Cup and Champion of Champions Cup double.
The year 1991 was another successful season for the forceful defender and company, winning the BP Top 8 Cup as well as the Champion of Champions Cup trophies as a Second Division side, having been relegated the previous year from the elite league – the very first time that Warriors dropped from the top-flight since the becoming a member of the National Football League (NFL) in 1962.
Having won promotion back to their rightful place – the Premier League in 1992, it was to some huge celebration that Chomba and his team won a double of the Charity Shield as well as the Heroes and Unity Cup that year before the versatile player was consumed in the April 1993 Gabon plane crash that also took away the lives of 17 other players, two coaches, five Zambia Air Force crew as well as four FAZ support staff and a Zambia National Information Service (ZANIS) journalist.
Chomba’s Zambia career saw him make two African Cup of Nations (AfCON) appearances in 1990 and 1992.
In the 1990 Algeria-held tournament in which Chomba played in all five matches, Zambia emerged bronze medallists, having beaten Senegal 1-0 in the third play-off with Webster Chikabala scoring the all-important goal.
Zambia had earlier lost 2-0 to Nigeria in the semi-finals in Algiers through Uche Okechukwu and Rachid Yekeni’s goals.
In the group stage, in zambia’s opening match, she beat Cameroon 1-0, Chikabala being the scorer whereas in the second, the Samuel Ndhlovu-tutored side won by a lone goal as well through Linos Makwaza – son to assistant coach Dickson – himself the captain-marvel who led his country to a silver medal in Zambia’s maiden AfCON appearance at the 1974 Egypt-staged showpiece.
Zambia drew 0-0 with Senegal in the third and last group stage match in the town of Annaba where the team was based.
The culmination of Chomba’s key contribution to Zambia’s exceptional performance was that he was one of the two Zambian players who made the final XI in the 1990 CAF Best Team of the Tournament.
The Algeria-dominated CAF team of the Tournament, in a 4-4-2 formation, had Antar Osmani (Algeria) as goalkeeper with fellow countryman Ali Benhalima, Andre Kana-Biyik (Cameroon), Arse Hobou (Cote d’Ivoire) and of course Chomba (Zambia), completing the flat-four defence.
The four-man midfielde base had Djamel Amani (Algeria), Rabah Madjer (Algeria) and Moses Kpakor (Nigeria).
The two man forward-line had Zambia’s Chikabala and Algeria’s Djamel Menad, the tournament’s top-score with four goals.
By Chomba’s feat, he thus become, at the tie, Zambia’s second defender ever to be included in the CAF Team of the Tournament.
The first was Zambia Army’s (Green Buffaloes’) Dick Chama who made the 1974 CAF Best Team of the Tournament alongside Congo Brazzaville’s Dengaki, Zaire’s Boba Lobilo and Egyp’t Hany Moustafa in the traditional back four.
Since Zambia’s first appearance at the AfCON in 1974 through to 2015 – making it 17 appearances overall – Chomba is the only Kabwe Warriors’ player to have ever been included in the CAF Team of the Tournament – the crème de la crème team selected by the CAF’s Technical Study Group (TSG) at the end of every tournament of the continent’s greatest sporting event, selecting individual players as the best in their respective positions, based on their performnces throughout the championship.
Other than Chama (1974) and Chomba (1990) being included in the CAF Best Team of the Tournament, three other Zambian defenders have since walked the same path: Harrison Chongo (1994), Elijah Litana (1996) and Stopilla Sunzu (2012).
Elsewhere, Chomba’s name is etched permanently in the CECAFA tournament for scoring two goals in two matches in the 1991 and 1992 editions.
In the 1991 Uganda-held CECAFA competition and won by Zambia, Chomba is well remembered for scoring in his country’s 3-2 group stage victory over Zanzibar, netting the winner in the 89th minute.
Zambia would go on and beat Sudan by the same score in the semi-final before thrashing Kenya 2-0 in the final with Mufulira Wanderers duo of Philemon Kaunda and Francis “Diego” Chisenga getting the goals on the afternoon of December 7, 1991 in the Kampala-held grand-finale.
Come the 1992 edition, Chomba scored yet again for country in another 3-2 win over Ethiopia in the group stage alongside Moses Chikwalakwala and Patrick “Bomber” Banda.
Chomba’s Zambia, after losing 4-2 on post-match penalties to Uganda after a barren draw in open play, found solace in thumping Malawi 4-0 in the third play-off with Kelvin Mutale and “Bomber” Banda sharing a brace each.
Chomba was also part of the Zambia squad to the 1988 Seoul Olympics as Samuel Nghlovu’s team humbled Italy 4-0 in the group stage.
Among Chomba’s Gabon Air Disaster colleague who also made the Seoul Olympics team were goalkeeper Efford Chabala, defender Eston Mulenga and the midfield twosome of Profund Warriors’ Derby Makinka and Power Dynamos’ Wisdom Chansa.
Personal life Chomba was married at the time of the plane crash. He was outlived by a wife and a daughter.