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HomeSportsPATSON DAKA: CARRYING THE HOPES OF A NATION

PATSON DAKA: CARRYING THE HOPES OF A NATION

Maxwell Ndhlovu

The sound of an ecstatic crowd rings through Leicester City’s King Power Stadium on October 17. The match has ended with an unforeseen scoreline, Leicester 4 – Manchester United 2, and the game-changer was Patson Daka!

Back at home, Zambian fans filled social media with tributes of their new hero. It was a historic moment for the first Zambian to ever score a goal in the English Premier League.

Zambians have had to wait a long time for this moment. After the shortcomings of Collins Mbesuma and Emmanuel Mayuka before him, Patson scored in injury time to enter his country Zambia as the 104th nation to register a premier league goal scorer.

Chongo Mubanga, a Zambian resident living in Leicester, says, “The ground literally shook. Everyone was waiting for that moment because the locals were wondering what exactly the club spent 23 million pounds on.

“Can you imagine, in a match with star-studded players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba, it was Patson who came on and changed the game for Leicester.”

Building on that performance, Daka went on to break a 63-year-old record five days later after a four-goal haul in Leicester’s 3-4 away victory against Spartak Moscow, becoming the first Leicester player to score a hat-trick in European competition and the first player to score four goals in a single match for the club in any competition since Derek Hines (versus Aston Villa in November 1958).

Derrick Mpaka, a Zambian living in Moscow, Russia was present at the stadium and shared his experience.

“Of my six years here in Russia, this has to be one of my proudest moments. I lost my voice, we went mad! Can you imagine the stadium is fifty thousand in capacity and we were a maximum of thirty thousand people? The noise we made annoyed the home fans who were 10 thousand plus!

“From that day many Russians know about Zambia and Patson. They took photos of us and we were trending on Russian media for the next two days. That is the first game I have seen in Russia where I have felt so proud to lift my Zambian flag. Patson made me so proud. He noticed us! We were singing Zambian songs and he came to us and blew flying kisses.”’

In the time since, Daka has gone on to register one assist, a goal and a penalty scored against fellow Zambian Enock Mwepu’s Brighton and Hove Albion side.

The joy of his success has been shared far and wide. Zambian football fans have had to endure an ever-growing barren spell at international level which has included the national team missing out on three Africa Cup of Nation Tournaments in a row and with nothing to write home about since the 2017 under 20 Africa Cup.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Solwezi Today, former Zanaco FC head coach Chris Kaunda, who also coached Daka at under-17 level says the footballer’s career growth is no surprise.

”What is happening now is not surprising to me. What he is doing now at Leicester is a project in his life that he began from the time we met at Airtel Rising Stars. He has been on a rising tide. These boys, their future only God knows. There is more to see, I can assure you. They have got a lot to offer.”

Kaunda also called for a collective effort to ensure that Zambia continues to grow players that will help push the country forward.

”There are so many (Zambian players abroad), Fashion (Sakala), Kangwa (Klings), there are so many out there in Europe. It’s just that these are being talked about because they are playing in the Premier League. You as the media need to follow all players; even the players who are playing in the local league. You need to protect these players, write something positive about them. Supporters and the media need to help these players to grow.”

Zambia has been in the spotlight in recent weeks after Daka’s four-goal haul. Scotland-based Fashion Sakala scored a hat trick for Rangers vs Motherwell whilst Emmanuel Banda and Edward Chilufya have been playing a pivotal role in Swedish side Djurgårdens push for the title.

Daka’s successes have provided the much-needed joy that football fans have been starved of.

Four weeks ago, fans were mulling over another failed world cup qualification campaign. Fast forward to today, a new hero has risen, a beacon of hope and a sense of pride has returned amongst fans.

Just as the great Kalusha Bwalya emerged after the 1993 Gabon air crash, the exploits of Patson and his ilk abroad are just what Zambia needs to ensure a dramatic comeback on the international scene.

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