Lionel Messi V Godfrey Chitalu: Why Zambia's Case for Goals Record Is Legitimate

Andrew JordanSenior Writer IDecember 13, 2012

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

On Sunday December 9, Lionel Messi broke Gerd Müller's 40-year-old record of 85 goals scored in a calendar year with his 85th and 86th goals in a win against Real Betis.

There was much praise for the Argentine star's breaking the world record. But it appears the achievement Messi owns could be a mirage.

Yesterday, it was reported Zambia's Football Association would contest Messi's title of the most goals scored in a calendar year. In the eyes of the Zambian FA, legendary striker Godfrey Chitalu scored 107 goals in 1972, the same year Müller set his supposed record with Bayern Munich.

In his career, Chitalu was an accomplished goal scorer. He scored one of Zambia's two goals during the 1980 Moscow Olympics and was also a leading player on the Copper Bullet national squad, which reached the 1974 African Cup of Nations final.

Chialu remained in football after his retirement and was the manager of the golden generation of Zambian footballers who passed away in the 1993 Liberville plane crash.

The claims made by the Zambian FA raised eyebrows throughout football circles, especially considering Zambia has never said anything about this supposed record over the last 40 years.

There is a reason behind this, according to Jerry Muchimba, a Zambian football researcher (via

Countries with well organised Football Associations have official records of all matches played by their national team and record holders for appearances and goals scored can be easily identified.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in Zambia. No official record of all national team matches has ever been made public so people can only guess as to who the record holders are.

What Muchimba's statement tells us is that Zambian officials never before looked into the statistics achieved by many of their players.

Considering the research Muchimba put into the work of Zambian football numbers—and he was the person who presented the stats to the Zambian Football Association—speaks volumes about his dedication.

It is for this reason Marca called Muchimba a "historian."

Muchimba described his findings in a December 11 article, in which he discussed Chitalu's historic 1972 year.

This research was briefly mentioned by Muchimba in an article from November 9, where he explained he got these records from reading newspaper accounts and match reports.

In his article, the historian goes into depth on the famous goal scorer, sharing how Chitalu scored in 17 consecutive matches, along with how he surpassed his previous record in Zambia of 81 goals, which he had achieved in 1968.

In the eyes of the Zambian FA, the work of Muchimba is genuine enough to submit a claim to FIFA for Chitalua to hold the goal-scoring record.

In the eyes of FIFA, this work is legitimate enough to warrant an internal review of the claims.

Once FIFA finishes its review on this manner, either Chitalu or Messi will have the goals title to himself. If Messi is declared the "goal-scoring king," there will be no doubt about the legitimacy because of his stature and the way football stats are recorded today.

If Chitalu wins, many will dispute the record due to the defenses he played against, along with the weak strength of the Zambian league.

Although the league Chitalu participated in may not have possessed the same talent level as La Liga, the Zambian did not have the advantages Messi had: Chitalu never had modern technology that could help his performance, an immaculate playing surface like the Camp Nou or teammates like Andres Iniesta and Xavi, who produce numerous scoring chances for Messi.

The Zambian goal-scoring hero played nearly every game for his club in 1972 and was one of the greatest African footballers ever.

This debate between Chitalu and Messi's goalscoring exploits will not end until FIFA makes its final decision, which may anger many.

However, the brilliance Chitalu exhibited in 1972 cannot be ignored. The accounts, which have been published online, do hold merit.

Considering very little is known about Zambian football, Godfrey Chitalu, not Lionel Messi, could reasonably hold the record for most goals scored in a calendar year.


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