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Zambeef and Ngosa: The quest to preserve the nation’s football heritage

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Chingola crowds

Chingola crowds

It was an unlikely match that has turned out to be a winning combination: the creativity and passion of young film-maker Ngosa Chungu with the commercial might of agribusiness giant Zambeef Products, joining forces to capture Zambia’s football heritage for the nation.

When Ngosa Chungu, the director for the acclaimed film documentary e18hteam, set out to study film she had no idea what an impact that decision would have more than 20 years’ down the line.

The film, which has been produced thanks to a K1.5 million sponsorship deal with Zambeef, highlights significant moments in Zambian football over the years; how football as a sport took shape in Zambia; the 1993 tragedy and how the team and nation coped with the disaster; and finally to the triumphant winning of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

“What about football? I don’t know… it’s an irrational thing! It’s a great way to put out your passion into the world. I don’t know what it is about being a fan and rooting for your team, experiencing those highs and lows. And also all around the world, it doesn’t matter where you go, football is a universal language. It’s just a great way to interact and fit in wherever you go as well,” explained Ngosa of her life-long love of the beautiful game.

Chingola-born Ngosa returned home to Zambia from her travels and studies abroad in 2011 and immediately knew something special was in the works. It would however, take her another year to figure out exactly what the project would be.

“I came back to Zambia in 2011 and knew something was brewing the minute I got here. I wasn’t sure what project to take up but when that final whistle blew to signal Zambia’s winning goal, I knew then that that was my project and set out to ensure that I would be the one to have the privilege of telling this truly and proudly Zambian story.

“The day we won the AFCON I was alone, locked away in my room. I didn’t want to watch the game with anyone because it was too much for me. I followed it right through to the end and watched every minute of it. I was so, so excited when we won because I couldn’t believe we had actually achieved the impossible! And I immediately, after getting over the initial shock, called my father and told him this was going to be my first project! I wanted this proudly Zambian story to be told by a Zambian from a Zambian point of view. We had to record our history and not lose this amazing story… you know… and tell the back story as well to show just how amazing the story really is,” she said recalling the events of that fateful day.

Ngosa jumped at the opportunity to combine the craft that she loves so much with her unending passion for football and set out to create the e18hteam film documentary in collaboration with her Spanish counterpart Juan-Rodriguez Briso. For two years the two worked tirelessly to gather the necessary footage and developing a story line.

It was this passion that caught to imagination of Zambeef Joint Chief Executive Officer Carl Irwin, who recognised in Ngosa the kind of talent, determination and enthusiasm that also lies at the heart of Zambia’s largest agribusiness conglomerate.

“Zambeef saw something special in Ngosa and the e18hteam story. It tells the story of a crucial part of Zambia’s history; a story that is true to the hearts of all Zambians; and a story that echoes some of the setbacks and triumphs that Zambeef itself has experiences over the years,” said Dr Irwin.

Ngosa takes up the story again of the making of the e18hteam film: “The challenge we had at that point was the quality of the footage. But the break came in 2015 when Zambeef came on board to support the film. Since 2012, I had been trying to find a way to collaborate with them because what they represented was much not unlike the Chipolopolo story; Zambeef is a proudly Zambian company and deeply involved in football in the local community where they operate from and at national level supporting the Chipolopolo in various ways. Of course they create the Kaleza football boots; there’s their partnership with Alive and Kicking, the charity that creates footballs, so really they were the perfect fit. 2015 was the right time and they were able to sponsor upgrading archival footage used in the film to HD quality.”

She took inspiration for naming the e18hteam title from the number 18; the story about a team, which sounds much like 18. The number 18 also features a lot throughout the story: 18 players died in 1993, 18 years later to the date that Zambia won the 2012 AFCON and it took 18 penalties to make it to happen.

Ngosa’s love for the game has been a part of her life from the time she was born and she attributes that to her dad, who played amateur football in his early years and was the 1972 school Footballer of the Year, with scouts eyeing him for the 1974 national team. This however, changed when he was awarded a scholarship that led to his becoming and engineer and later a banker. But in all of this his love for the game remained and was passed on to his children.

“I’ve been a football fan since I was born and football is very much a part of our family. My dad used to play amateur football in his early days and my fondest memories were us of attending some of the matches that he brought us to as kids.”

Clearly not one to be in front of a camera, the 33-year-old film-maker finds she is most comfortable behind the camera directing and calling the shots. She believed film is a great way to communicate, get people to think and grow and learn by putting something out there and seeing how they react to it, and learn from that as well. As with her love for the game of football, her love for film started at a young age as well.

“When I was a kid, I saw how my mum loved to read. I love to read as well; and how dad was into motion pictures. My mum ignited in me a knack for imagination and my dad a love for storytelling. I knew early on in life that I wanted to take that imagination and use that storytelling ability to communicate with the rest of the world, and what better way than through film. And having watched the first Star Wars as a child I was captivated by the fact that you could go into space through a film. I love just staring up into the sky and into the stars wondering what’s up there. The fact that a film could take you to another place and that you could completely be absorbed and forget everything around you; I’d love to do that with my movies,” she said.

As well as reading, Ngosa, who is a real foodie, loves to do watch cooking shows and try out new recipes in her spare time.

She describes herself as passionate and proudly Zambian and this is evident in her quest to get content into the world that reflects who and what Zambia is and hopes that Zambians would see a reflection of themselves and that they too in their own lives can do great things if they put their mind to it.

“What I hoped for this movie was for the world to see how amazing we are as Zambians, how much potential we have and how we can make an opportunity out very, very little. In 1993 when the crash happened, we were not prepared for that kind of tragedy but we were still able to build ourselves up and a year later be in the AFCON final for the second time in our history. And also in 2012, nobody believed in us because most of our players never played in the big leagues in Europe. In the finals you had players the likes of Drogba who played at the highest levels as far as the World Cup, and what could Zambia do? And still we were able to find something within us to triumph against all the odds,” she observed.

The e18hteam film is being showcased across Zambia throughout August and into September in a ‘Zambeef in Your Town’ Dibili roadshow that has already covered Kabwe, Chingola, Kitwe, Kaoma and Mongu, and will reach Choma and Livingstone on August 21 and 22, Chipata on August 29 and Mansa on September 5. Lusaka residents will have a chance to see the film on August 24 at Freshview cinema in Manda Hill during the Barefeet Festival.

“The reaction to the national tour has been amazing and really great. It was moving for some because of the fact that the film was a faithful documentation of what happened. It’s been lovely; Some FAZ officials and the mayor of one of the towns we’ve been to so far come out to show their support. And also seeing that people had been following the journey of the documentary and were excited that it has finally been brought to them thanks to Zambeef,” she said of the experience.

“It will certainly be interesting to see the reaction to the movie and the level of interaction people in more urban areas and at the grassroots have with sport. I’m glad that Zambeef stepped in to take this film to the rest of Zambia and that anyone who is a Chipolopolo fan and proudly Zambian would have access to the film for free. And also as it goes around the world and people embrace it at film festivals,” she added.

Ngosa is currently working on other projects when not on the road and hopes to do her first feature film in the coming year.

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