It has been a tough road back for Zambian football, which has virtually reset itself over the past 30 years. The country was devastated by the 1993 plane crash that killed their entire national squad and coaches, leaving very few prominent figures left in the country to pick up the pieces. It has been an impressive comeback though and the country has proven themselves on the world stage since then. A remarkable victory for Chipolopolo in the 2012 African Cup of Nations opened the door to their players featuring in football’s biggest leagues including the English top flight. The country has seen 6 players feature within the league amounting to various levels of success. So just what has been the fate of all Zambian players in the English Premier League?
Who are the 6 Zambian players to feature in the Premier League?
Neil Gregory (Ipswich Town)
The honour of the first Zambian player to feature in the Premier League comes via an English-raised striker called Neil Gregory. A product of the youth system at Portman Road, Gregory featured intermittently for The Tractor Boys as they fought against relegation in the 1994-95 season. Having impressed the previous season on loan at Chesterfield, Gregory regularly made cameo appearances off the bench throughout the season.
It would be Gregory’s only experience with the top flight, as Ipswich were relegated and Gregory continued to appear on loans for clubs throughout the lower leagues of English football. After promising spells with Scunthorpe and Colchester, Gregory transitioned into management of several lower-league sides in East Anglia once he hung up the boots.
Collins Mbesuma (Portsmouth)
A player who was very hit or miss throughout his career, Collins Mbesuma proved to be a real conundrum to figure out. He moved to Portsmouth in 2005 after a 35-goal season for South African side Kaizer Chiefs. Various legal issues delayed his move to Pompey and his lack of commitment and fitness kept him firmly to the bench once he was cleared to play.
After failing to impress then-manager Alain Perrin, Mbesuma was sent on loan to Portugal with Maritimo where he found some form scoring 7 goals in 23 games. Upon return, he again fell out of favour at Fratton Park and left for Bursaspor in Turkey just one year later finishing a miserable spell in English football. Further issues with discipline and form plagued Mbesuma’s career in Europe and Africa although 22 goals in 65 appearances for the Zambia national team showed that there was potential form to be found when he wanted to show it.
Emmanuel Mayuka (Southampton)
Emmanuel Mayuka was a national superstar when he moved to Southampton in the summer of 2012. Mayuka had been a key reason why Zambia had won the 2012 African Cup of Nations scoring 3 goals in the tournament and finishing overall top scorer. This earned the Zambian a move to the Premier League from Swiss side Young Boys Berne and his pace and finishing were highly sought after by The Saints.
However, his form from the tournament had deserted him and Mayuka looked out of depth in the English top flight. A move to Sochaux on loan in 2013 helped restore a little bit of confidence but another goalless campaign in 2014/15 saw the end of his time in England. Mayuka left for French side Metz in 2015 having failed to score in 19 league appearances. He managed some further success in France and Israel but never reached the same heights as what he enjoyed at the start of the 2010s.
Charly Musonda Jr. (Chelsea)
In 1993, Charly Musonda Sr. injured his knee playing for his side Antwerp in Belgium ruling him out of national duty. This injury would save his life as he would’ve been destined to be on the plane that crashed and killed his national teammates. Musonda’s children would grow up to become professional footballers including promising midfielder Charly Musonda Jr. With promising ball skills and a reputable name, Musonda was picked up by Chelsea as part of their academy.
Musonda’s promise as a young talent earnt him some cameo appearances from the bench for The Blues but that would be as far it would go for the Belgian-Zambian star. Musonda has since found himself the source of repeated loan moves to clubs throughout Europe, although injuries have severely stifled any rhythm he could gained throughout his career. A real shame for someone who is still on the books at Stamford Bridge after 5 years since making his debut.
Patson Daka (Leicester)
There is a lot of promise surrounding the future of Zambian Premier League striker Patson Daka. With electrifying pace and a knack for finishing, Daka proved himself to be one of Europe’s most promising strikers with Red Bull Salzburg. In his time with the Austrian giants, he found a consistent taste for goals notching up back-to-back 20+ goal seasons in the Austrian Bundesliga.
In 2020-21, Daka scored 27 goals in 28 games earning him the league’s 2020/21 Player of the Season and the overall Golden Boot. This form caught the eye of Leicester City who signed the explosive forward in July 2021. With The Foxes a top side in the English top flight, the hallmarks are there for Daka to be a superstar in English football.
Enoch Mwepu (Brighton)
Another Zambian player to find success with Red Bull Salzburg, Enoch Mwepu has all the hallmarks to be a leading midfielder in the Premier League. Mwepu’s passing and dribbling is top-notch and enables him to be a tricky force inside an opponent’s half. The young midfielder has also slowly gained a taste for goal scoring 9 times in 72 appearances for Salzburg.
Having won 4 Bundesliga titles in Austria, Mwepu was picked by Brighton & Hove Albion in July 2021 as he made the move to the English top flight. Mwepu’s future looks promising having already provided one assist in a League Cup victory over Cardiff and already becoming a key cog for The Seagulls just several games into his English football career.
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