The history of Zambian football can never be complete without the mention of City of Lusaka Football Club. The club, formed around 1935 and based in the Woodlands area of Lusaka, is one of the pioneers of Zambian football alongside legendary traditional clubs like Kitwe United and Roan United.
Formally registered as a limited liability company in 1962, the club popularly known as Yamoto among its fervent supporters, in its early days formed a fierce rivalry in the Capital City with Lusaka Tigers which is based in the sprawling township of Matero. Yamoto got its support mainly from the residents of Woodlands and Chilenje.
Like many teams, it was started off as a social club before turning professional and etching its name as one of the legendary football clubs in the country. It was formed by a group of white workers who would meet over the weekend to pass out time. When it took on a professional outlook, it started to incorporate black African players.
But one of the most famous players to don the City of Lusaka jersey is former England international Jackie Sewell who commanded a world-record transfer fee for four years in the 1950s when he moved from Notts County to Sheffield Wednesday for £34,500 midway through the 1950-51 season.
After also appearing for Aston Villa and Hull City, making 509 English league appearances and scoring 228 league goals from his 15-year career, Sewell, who died in 2016 at the age of 89, came to what was then Northern Rhodesia as a coach and player for City of Lusaka. When Northern Rhodesia became Zambia in 1964, Sewell, who was now in his late 30s, was chosen to play 10 times for the newly independent nation during 1964-65, captaining the side and becoming one of the few footballers to have played for two different countries.
Under Sewell, City won the 1961/1964 Northern Rhodesia Castle Cup which was contested for by top teams from here and the then Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.
In 1962 and 1963, Yamoto won the Northern Rhodesia Challenge Cup and the black and white-shirted side crowned it all when they clinched the National League title in 1964 (Super Division). In the same period City also won the BP Top Eight which started as early as 1959.
The colors black and white were adopted to signify non-segragation of blacks by the original settlers who did not want racism.
In 1971, City striker Peter Muhango, later known as King Muhango, a regularly member of the KK11 and probably the best ever City player, was crowned the Rothmans of Pall Mall Sportsman-of-the-Year. The award was sponsored by Rothmans of Pall Mall of Zambia Ltd. The legendary Samuel ‘Zoom’ Ndhlovu of ‘Mighty’ Mufulira Wanderers was the first player to win the prestigious Rothmans of Pall Mall in 1964. It was a popular award and the biggest at the time.
Yamoto, played in the finals of the Heroes and Unity Cup in 1976 against Mufulira Wanderers and the Copperbelt side won 2-1.
City’s home ground, Woodlands, was the crown jewel of local football in Lusaka where the who’s who of the Capital City would regularly be in attendance.
Before teams like Zambia Army side Green Buffaloes, Zambia Air Force outfit Red Arrows and ZANACO came on the scene, City of Lusaka carried the hopes and aspirations of football fans in Lusaka.
City of Lusaka also produced a lot of football administrators who went on to be Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) presidents like late Michael Mwape, who died in the 1993 Gabon air disaster, late deputy Chief Justice David Lewanika and Simataa Simataa among others.
Other than Sewell, other renowned players to have graced Woodlands Stadium in the early years include midfielder Juma Chipeta, strikers Ridgeway Liwena, Mhango and Allan Cotel. In later years, players like Kaitano Philip Chungu, Lewis Shambulo, Eric Kulu, Smart Sakala, Peter Makembo, Chibaso Nkandu, Peter Mwape and Emment Kapengwe.
Chungu, a former Zambia National Commercial Bank (ZANACO) managing director, is now the current City of Lusaka chairman.
Admittedly, City of Lusaka did not win many major trophies after the introduction of the Zambian Super League in 1962 with teams like Mufulira Wanderers, Nkana (formerly Rhokana United), ‘Magnificent’ Kabwe Warriors, ‘Brave’ Nchanga Rangers and Ndola United reigning supreme.
Still, Yamoto, who have gone through ups-and-downs in recent times, played Power Dynamos in the finals of the now defunct Mosi Cup in 2002 where they lost 1-0 at Independence Stadium. The game is however remembered for Power striker Kellys “Paymaster” Mwaba scoring a controversial goal towards the end of the match which almost sparked a riot.
City, who have been in and out of the top flight of Zambian football mainly due to wrangles both on and off the pitch, were relegated from the top flight of Zambian football in 2017.
But with order returning to Woodlands Stadium, coupled with the support of sponsor Diego Casilli who has refurbished Woodlands Stadium, City of Lusaka is ready to reclaim its status as one of the leading local football clubs.
(This article was written by City of Lusaka public relations media liaison officer Alex Njovu)