Clatous Chama: The ‘Lusaka king’ who rules the roost in Tanzania

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When Egyptian side Al Ahly were formulating their line of attack ahead of their fierce battle against Simba SC in Tanzania, Pitso Mosimane knew too well who his combatants had to keep under lock and key at all costs.

Rulani Mokwena, a prodigious coaching talent that spent time as Mosimane’s apprentice, will tell you how meticulous his former boss does his homework in studying opponents.

So, it was no surprise when the two-time Caf Champions League winner precisely fished out the exact ‘culprits’ that had the pedigree to dent his team’s chances of progressing to the quarterfinals of Africa’s premier club football competition.

Top of his list was ‘Triple C’ – Clatous Chota Chama – otherwise known as ‘The Lusaka King’ who reigns in Dar es Salaam.

“Simba have good players, very quality players but I know four in their squad, Chama, (Luís) Miquissone, (Larry) Bwalya, and (Taddeo) Lwanga,” Mosimane was quoted by Sokalabongo.

“I have keenly followed Simba for a very long time and we know what we need to do to stop them, the four must be contained, they are the engine of the team, but one thing I know they won’t trouble us as such, we have studied them well and are ready to handle them.”

The former Bafana Bafana coach was right. He had probably followed Simba long enough to know the mercurial playmaker who scooped five individual awards to cap a remarkable 2019/20 term. Not to mention the countless man-of-the-match awards he received throughout his second season in the Tanzanian top-tier.

If, by any chance, ‘Jingles’, as Mosimane is affectionately known, had missed that name in his pre-match exploration, Walter Bwalya, his new Congolese recruit would have alerted him.

In all probability, Bwalya, who recently joined Al Ahly from El Gouna, associates ‘Triple C’ with heartbreak. Here’s the story – the date was December 24, 2018. The setting was the giant Benjamin Mkapa Stadium, a notorious fortress for the reigning Tanzania champions.

Bwalya, also known as Heriter Binene Sabwa, had put Zambia’s Nkana ahead and a quarter-final berth seemed so nigh. His 16th minute flashing header stretched their aggregate lead to 3-1. It looked all comfortable for the 13-time Zambia champions.

But Wekundu wa Msimbazi pulled two back in quick succession to level terms. That, Bwalya and his teammates could live with. Not until that sucker punch in the 89th minute that sealed the Tanzanians’ passage to the last eight of the prestigious tournament.

It slickly came from the blessed heel of Chama, with so much ease, style and panache the goalkeeper was understandably left a bemused man. In all its splendour, the goal boldly underlined Chama’s significance to the Kariakoo-based side.

“I can’t forget the game against Nkana at Mkapa Stadium, which saw Simba qualify for the quarter-finals of the Caf Champions League. There was also the one against AS Vita. In both games, he oddly scored in the 89th minute.

“It was not just ordinary goals, it was beautiful goals just to show how important he is to the club. In fact, he himself has actually said those two goals are some of his best in Simba colours,” Ramadhani Juma, a Dar es Salaam-based football journalist, tells FARPost.

There was no way the Lubumbashi-born Bwalya would have failed to recall that ‘Triple C’ defining moment.

True to Mosimane’s word, Chama and his Mozambican associate Miquissone were the chief architects of that shock 1-0 win over the African champions, Al Ahly.

Notably though, Tanzania’s 2019/20 Most Valuable Player and Midfielder of the Season’s form has not been a flash in the pan. Chama has been dependable and reliable since his days back in Zambia.

If you ask the police ladies’ team that often trained at the stadium right across his Kitwe home at the turn of the millennium in 2000, they will attest to that.

Every day, a diminutive nine-year-old Chama would faithfully stand behind the goal posts at Nkana Stadium – a facility famed for hosting a friendly between Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and English side Bolton Wanderers in 1959 – as the ladies went through their paces just to pick stray balls.

There was little to do for him in the house and chasing after wandering balls off skewed efforts by the ladies became a pleasant pastime.

At the time, the football craze had not properly spellbound his young heart. It was perhaps the urge to help his ‘sisters’ while passing precious time.

It became a norm to do so. And so, one day it so happened that the ladies were ‘a man’ short. The little boy they had often seen picking balls was available to fill in the slot.

He did not hesitate when they asked him to step in. In any case, kicking the ball around against a group of ladies, some 10 years his senior, was actually better than chasing after stray balls.

“I was 9 when I started playing football,” he tells FARPost in an interview held at the Dar Freemarket Mall in Oyster Bay, an affluent neighbourhood in the Tanzanian capital known for its attractive beach.

“We were staying in Kitwe near Nkana Stadium and there was a ladies’ team that used to train there. I’d be picking balls as they were training behind the goal posts.

“One day they were nine [in-field players] and they needed one more person to join so they called me.

“I trained with them that day. Afterwards, I’d often play with them. It was a police team,” he recalls vividly.

It is while playing with the ladies that he realised the world’s most beautiful game was actually something he thoroughly enjoyed.

Two years later, he lifted his hand when the school team sought a talented young boy to wear the captain’s armband and steer the team to success.

Interestingly, while he captained the second team, his elder brother skippered the first team. “I was captain for the younger ones and my brother for the bigger ones.” Talk about football running in the family.

Soon enough, an academy came in for his services while he was doing his Grade Nine (junior secondary).

Those that followed his rise back in Zambia reveal how much of a breeze his development was. A stint in the second division side that was followed by another in the first division meant big teams would soon chase after his signature.

His first notable dance with professional football was at Nchanga Rangers, a stint which preceded a lengthy stay at Zesco, the eight-time League title winners.

Former Zesco fullback Zimiseleni Moyo recalls the day 22-year-old Chama walked into Team Ya Ziko.

“He joined us when we were doing really well,” says the man popularly known as Nduna (Ndebele word for chief).

“He was quite young at the time and it was rare for any new player to walk into that team and have a permanent position. But the boy was talented.”

But as prominent American leadership author John C Maxwell would allude: ‘talent is never enough’, one needed bravery.

“Clatous was daring. In slang we’d say ‘he had heart’. He fought to break into the team and I remember each time he was given a chance he grabbed it with both hands,” Moyo tells FARPost from his Lusaka base.

During his time at the Ndola-based side, they won back-to-back league titles in 2014 and 2015. His Chipolopolo maiden appearance deservedly came the following year.

“He proved to be the best passer of the ball in Zambia, often giving our strikers some good through passes,” says Moyo, who was part of the championship-winning team.

Chama helped the club reach the semi-finals of the Caf Champions League in 2016, also establishing himself as assist king. He scored four goals during that campaign.

“When he started he made lots of assists but his game developed and he added goals to it,” adds the Zimbabwean fullback.

In 2017, he took his talents to North Africa where he joined Egyptian side El Ittihad on a three-year deal that later went south. He could not be registered after a contractual rift between the two parties barely three months after agreeing terms with the Alexandria club.

In February 2017, he left the club before making an official appearance. “Egypt was crazy, I signed a pre-contract and I got the money though it was difficult to get it. Just before the season started, they didn’t want to give me the official contract so I told them I would not play any game until I got the official contract.

“They thought I was joking and the deadline for registration of foreign players arrived. They went behind my back to ask for my ITC (clearance), but I wrote to FAZ (Football Association of Zambia) to hold onto it until I cleared them. I stayed in Egypt for two weeks in the house without going anywhere,” he says.

It took some high-level government intervention for him to finally leave Egypt. Upon his return to Zambia, he joined Lusaka Dynamos.

“When he came back from Egypt, he joined Lusaka Dynamos and immediately became captain,” Moyo recalls. A leader had been born.

“He was really influential at Dynamos because when he joined them they were a relegation team and he lifted them that very season.”

Interestingly, after only 18 months he put the North Africa nightmare behind him and moved to East Africa to join Simba.

“It showed how determined and brave he was,” Moyo says of the 2018 move.

By his own admission, Chama was impressed by the revolution that continues to transform football in the country that is home to the highest single free-standing mountain – Mount Kilimanjaro.

“I feel the League is growing and I decided to stay and be a part of it,” he says.

Of course, being in a foreign land comes with its own challenges. But Triple C takes it all in his stride.

RELATED STORY: About the Kariakoo derby: Straight from Tanzania’s reigning footballer of the season

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