Saturday, 14 November 2009

The night I met a Zambian National Hero

It was a strange strange situation when I first heard of Lyson Zulu. When out on placement in Zambia, I met Sally Pandor, the national football manager. He sold me the last official Zambian football shirt in Lusaka and we had a photo together, it was good times.

I later learnt whilst I was in Zambia, the national team, also known as the Chipolopolo (translating as the 'Bullets' from Nanja to English), would be part-taking in a friendly game against fellow Africans London. So whilst I, Johnny English, was in Zambia writing about sport, the Zambian national team traded places. I'm sure at the time of arranging the friendly it seemed like a good idea. In between international qualifiers against Egypt, Algeria and Rwanda, a chance to have a look over the first team selection would have proved beneficial.

What happens wasn't foreseen was an inability for the majority Zambian national team to actually get to London, due to a lack of passports, which is usually a problem let's be honest. After this realization, panic spread across the Zambian management team and in a desperate attempt to field a team, called up many Zambians already residing within Britain, cue Lyson Zulu.

This is where it becomes all very interesting. Lyson Zulu is currently on a scholarship at Loughborough, having already attended Bath University. He was offered a chance to shine at Bath having impressed their students during their time on the IDEALs Project (the project through which I too went across to Africa). He was a peer leader at EduSport, the non-government organization I was writing during my placement. I therefore was required to write a news article about the man himself which is on the EduSport website and can be seen here.

Despite the situations in which he gained his called up, the amount of pride that a product of Kalingalinga (one of the placements students carried out their sport's coaching during the project) gained a cap for the Zambian National Team was insurmountable.

Then, last night at the Stirling Zambian Fundraising Ceilidh, who should I meet, but Lyson himself who had made the trip up from Loughborough. Probably the nicest guy in the entire world, we quickly got into conversation once I mentioned I had written an article about him for the EduSport website. Both being men, the conversation quickly led onto the topic of football and his call up.

"I was very surprised to get a call up, it was the proudest moment of my life. Despite the call up, I wasn't really expecting to a game and perhaps only play the last 10/15 minutes of the match. However, during the warm up, the coach said he liked the looks of me and less than 15 minutes before kick off, was told I was starting".

"I was playing as a lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation which is a very hard position to play and requires a lot of hard work. Although we lost, it was still amazing experience, especially to be playing in London".

Leyton Orient's home ground 'Brisbane Road' does seem one of the last football grounds in the world you'd find a 4-1 win for Ghana over the minnows of Zambia, but never the less, it was a fine setting for Lyson Zulu's proudest moment who has since become something of a national hero in the eyes of everyone how acknowledges his moment.

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