James Chamanga: The good man who thinks generationally

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James Chamanga is that canonical good man who thinks generationally. He has not just prepared for his children’s future but also the generation after his own offspring as prescribed in the Holy Book he loves so much.

The popular bible scripture that seemingly drives the man is Proverbs 13:22 and it reads, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children…”

When a then 21-year-old Chamanga broke into the first team of Makumbi Stars, and started earning a first division meagre salary, the first thing he thought of was purchasing a piece of land in the outskirts of Zambia’s capital Lusaka.

While his peers were pondering going for the latest car to match up their star status, his heart and mind were set on this one thing that didn’t make sense to many. He just wanted a piece of land.

The go-getter that he is, he would not wait for the second salary. He immediately got into an arrangement to buy the land and pay in instalments.

“I went for a piece of land, I wasn’t earning a lot to pay for it outrightly, so I made an arrangement to pay for it in instalments,” he tells FARPost from his Lusaka base.

For almost seven years, Chamanga was clearing that debt and ‘fulfillingly’ so. “I only finished it off when I came to South African (in 2006),” he says.

Exactly two decades later, as his glittering career that has also taken him to far-flung China, approaches the twilight that piece of land is now giving back to him.

Understandably, the fruits of his vision have drawn acclaim from an opponent – Lusaka Dynamos’ defender-cum-midfielder Zimiseleni Moyo.

“He’s been an inspiration to many of us, he has invested in property and has a block of apartments he rents out,” Moyo says in admiration.

Although he would not get into details about the worth of his investments, Chamanga made it clear that upcoming generations of his family “are sorted”.

“I’ve invested quite well that my children will still be able to live comfortably when I stop playing football,” he adds.

Moyo, who continues to draw spur from him, says even today, after amassing so much wealth particularly in China’s football League, Chamanga still drives a simple car.

“Even today, he drives a simple Corolla but I’m sure he can afford a bigger and more expensive car,” Moyo adds.

The former SuperSport United and Moroka Swallows forward loves sharing the knowledge he’s acquired regarding land. His philosophy, developed as he continued to grow in the game, was never to get bank loans beyond the duration of his contracts.

“I always advise youngsters and say don’t just buy a car when you’ve been given a signing-on fee because 5 years down the line you may not have that job,” Chamanga puts it plainly.

Listening to him talk, you’d easily mistake him for a clergyman who commands a flock of followers that pays regular tithe to him.

But no, a tither himself, as confirmed by his close ally Isaac Chansa, the Zambian forward is simply a man who understands and has applied ‘divine principles’ in an incredible, lengthy football career.

And when Chansa, Moyo and many others share the impact his spiritual walk has had in their lives, you then understand the 40-year-old Chamanga has always been on a mission from day one.

“I shared a room with James in national team camps for 10 years and the one thing I learnt from him is putting God first in everything,” says former Orlando Pirates midfielder, Chansa.

The man nicknamed ‘Djemba Djemba’ recalls when he went through a rough patch. SuperSport were on the verge of loaning him out to Maritzburg United. But, injured as he was, he was adamant he wanted to go to a bigger team, a demand Matsatsantsa eventually acceded to as they sold him to Moroka Swallows.

“I was still injured when I went to Swallows. I didn’t understand that injury. It was painful and for 3 months I couldn’t touch the ball. So, I had to fast for 7 days,” he recalls.

Straight after the fast, injury healed, he was thrown into the fray against Kaizer Chiefs and he registered his first goal for The Beautiful Birds. He went on to win the Golden Boot Award at the end of that season after banging in 14 goals.

Chansa stresses: “Fasting and prayer has always been a part of his life, I remember doing it with him a couple of times.”

In fact, Chamanga says if he happens to go 7 games without scoring, he takes time to seek his God through fasting, sometimes for as long as 21 days.

“I don’t turn to God as a second option. I reaffirm my faith to God,” says Chamanga, who scored a record-breaking five goals for the Dube Birds in a 6–2 League win against Platinum Stars on 9 December 2007. Interestingly, 13 years later, the fastest hat-trick in South African football remains the four minutes it took Chamanga to score from the 23rd minute to the 26th minute for Swallows in that game.

At the ripe age of 40, former Baroka FC coach Wedson Nyirenda, the man who discovered him over two decades ago, describes his ageing prodigy as a rarity in a brutally physical sport that often forces players 10 years younger than he is – or more – to find a new profession.

“I’ve always known him to be a focused man,” says Nyirenda, adding that at some point he had given up on the game after being told he was not good enough.

The Red Arrows forward took the Zambia Premier League by storm when he returned from a decade-long stint in East Asia where he turned out for China’s topflight sides Dallian Shide and Liaoning Who in 2019.

The ageless former Chipolopolo striker had to come out of retirement. On 6 July 2018, Liaoning announced that he would no longer play for the team, but he would assume the role of technical director.

However, he surprisingly bounced back in his homeland at the end of March 2019 after the airforce side Red Arrows warily handed him a three-month deal.

A year down the line, he is the first Zambian to win the Golden Boot award since 2015 when Winston Kalengo won it. The soft-spoken star who is in his 20th season in professional football scored 16 goals for Arrows. He is showing no signs of tiring either, having penned a one-year extension recently.

Former Zambia national team coach Beston Chambeshi says at his age, it is surprising that he is still eager to learn.

“He still approaches training with the passion and enthusiasm of a young player,” says Chambeshi.

The 2012 AFCON winner reveals he is ready to have another run out next season. “It’s important to maintain a good weight at my age, to eat well and have some good recovery programs,” Chamanga adds.

He is aware that strength typically tops out around age 35 and then starts to decline—slowly. “At my age, your muscles aren’t that active. I need more training in the gym. I must also know that my recovery is longer than that of young players,” Chamanga says, adding that he goes to the gym twice a week.

Luckily, he has his beautiful and supportive wife to ensure he gets a good diet, something he singles out as a big boost throughout his career.

“I never eat takeaways; I prefer food cooked by my wife at home. She understands what kind of food I need at any given point,” adds Chamanga.

“Football is my work; it’s my bread and butter. I must take good care of the body that plays the game.”

Interestingly, Chamanga claims he has never sipped anything alcoholic in the last 20 years. “I’ve never consumed alcohol since the time I started playing football (professionally),” he claims. The veteran striker will not even touch a glass of wine during the season.

He has a scientific explanation for his decision. “Alcohol causes the excretion of water from bodies, which means that when you drink you can easily get dehydrated. Because exercise can also dehydrate you, the combination may reduce your performance level. You may also have symptoms of dehydration, like dry mouth, fast heartbeat or feeling dizzy,” he says.

In each of his seasons in Zambia, South Africa and China, he has always played over 25 games, something he attributes to staying fit.

Born in Luanshya, a town with a population of about 150,000 in the Copperbelt Province near Ndola, Chamanga had to move to the capital Lusaka after his mother passed on in 1993, when he was just 13 years old.

As his career approaches the sundown, the good man can enjoy his game without any pressure, knowing future generations are sorted.

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By Mthokozisi Dube

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