By Ponga Liwewe
Wisdom Chansa, ever immaculate, despite playing for ninety minutes, and hardly appearing to have broken a sweat, holds aloft the CAF Cup Winners Cup in Lusaka’s Independence Stadium as a roar goes around the terraces. This is a first for Zambian football. No other Zambian team has lifted a continental trophy in the country’s football history and fittingly, in 1991, against Nigeria’s BCC Lions, the player leading his team on to the podium is the man who epitomises what this club has stood for in its long, illustrious history.
Chansa’s prodigious work rate, dedication and unparalleled leadership – both on and off the field – was a reflection of what Power Dynamos Football Club stood for. After its formative years under the ownership of Watson Kaira, who started the team as a social club for kids in the community, in had stepped the former referee Arthur Davies, General Manager at the Copperbelt Power Company (now Copperbelt Energy Corporation), to turn the club into a force in Zambian football and to overturn the established order.
Davies did so by delving into the player market and securing the best talent available. He blended them with the players who had taken the club through the ranks, some as far back as the team’s amateur days – among them Blackwell Chalwe and Stafford Mtalama. His signings included one-time Zambia captain Richard Stephenson, international Bizwell Phiri and young upcoming stars Peter Kaumba, signed from Mindolo United, the magical Alex Chola and others.
Davies and Power Dynamos, with the support of the Copperbelt Power Company (CPC), were ready to take on the football world and they did. By 1979, Power Dynamos were scoring their first domestic success – winning the Independence Cup. Three years later, they became the first Zambian team to reach the final of a continental competition when they met Egyptian giants Arab Contractors in the 1982 final. Though they lost by a 2-0 margin, both home and away, they had stamped their indelible mark on the face of African football.
In 1983, they won the inaugural Rothmans Cup in Cote d’Ivoire and made such a huge impression that Ivorian giants Africa Sports signed their two biggest stars Peter Kaumba and Alex Chola to play professional football there.
They tasted their first league success in 1984, demolishing Mufulira Wanderers 4-1 at Arthur Davies Stadium under floodlights and went on to further success in 1991, 1994, 1997, 2000 and 2011, taking their league title tally to six, the second highest in Zambian club football.
On the field, Power Dynamos Football Club has set a standard few clubs in Zambian football can match. After CPC was nationalised and later privatised and reborn as the Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC), the company acknowledged Power Dynamos’ vital role in the community and as the flag bearer of Zambian football beyond the country’s borders. Hence, CEC prioritised financing the operations of the club to ensure that it stayed among the elite teams in Zambian football; for from the club’s early beginnings, they have strived to be the pioneers and innovators in the Zambian game.
After the privatisation of the mines in the late nineties and early 2000s, mine-owned clubs were devastated by the reduction in funding and once-great teams, among them Mufulira Wanderers, Nchanga Rangers, Roan United and even Nkana suffered the ignominy of relegation to the lower ranks. In the region, only Power Dynamos stood fast and with the backing of CEC, avoided the fate of the others as the company dug deep into its resources to keep the team competitive and even active in continental football. Zambian football faced its greatest challenge during this period. Hundreds of clubs ceased to exist as companies shed workers and sought to cut costs. CEC, however, took a long-term view and chose to ride the storm, keeping Power Dynamos afloat and maintaining the standards that had made the club a force to reckon with since its inception in 1971.
Outside the Arthur Davies Stadium, the Ndeke and Ndeke Village communities are the proud hubs in which the team’s players live and are entrenched in community life. Every match day, thousands of kids, mums, dads and grandparents make the journey to Arthur Davies Stadium for their bi-weekly staple of the neat, passing football that has become the hallmark of the club. Beyond these two communities, the club’s reach has extended right across Kitwe to embrace large swathes of the population whose loyalties are largely spread between Power Dynamos, Nkana and Kitwe United. Across Zambia, Power Dynamos communities are commonplace and when the team travels for league matches, it’s passionate followers congregate to give vociferous backing to their team. The popularity of Power Dynamos has even crossed national boundaries.
To understand what this club means to its fans, one has to sit in the terraces and observe the ebb and flow of emotions on match day. The jubilation and joy of a win brings visible happiness to the faces of the club’s followers. Defeat is captured in crestfallen faces and even tears as fans struggle to keep their emotions in check.
For the people of the community there is no greater joy than when one of their own go on to play for the club. The levels of pride are immense when a local boy comes good and plays for the club. Today, a new generation of young players hope to one day become the stars of tomorrow at Power Dynamos. Wisdom Chansa’s young brother Steven once trained with the club and today, his 13-year-old twin sons, Elijah and Elisha, hope to don the yellow jersey as their late uncle once did. Their late grandfather James Chama also played for Nkana for eighteen years and they are determined to carry the mantle onward.
Recently there has been uncertainty about which direction the club will take as the parent sponsor, Copperbelt Energy Corporation, seeks to chart the way forward in the midst of muddied corporate waters resulting from debt owed to it, power supply and services provision disputes and other decisions taken at national level considered by many to be inimical to the commercial interests of the company. This has struck fear in fans’ hearts and the community is mollified at the prospect of their club becoming a victim of the impasse.
Says one fan who has rooted for the club for over four decades, from the early days to date: ‘This club has become part and parcel of who I am as an individual and who we are as a community. Our identities are intertwined. The fate of Power Dynamos is our fate. Half a century of history is at stake and three generations of our family, our supporters are affected. Without this club, a part of us is lost.’