The entire story of Zambia’s team that beat Italy 4-0 in 1988 lingers around the venom in Kalusha Bwalya’s right foot. The deft and vision in Charles Musonda’s nimble feet.
And then, of course, the quick turns, balance, and megawatt power wrapped and loaded in Wisdom Chansa and that’s fine. But the picture is always incomplete without the mention of Ashious commonly pronounced as Ashols Melu.
If you took as much time as I have taken watching the videos of the team that perished off the coast of Gabon before 1988 through to the black year of 1993, Ashols Melu stands out as the best center back Zambia has ever had.
Elijah Tana and Litana drew their strength from a partnership, Sunzu has an Afcon medal but the 1988 Olympics captain might just be the best center back Zambia has ever had and this is why?
Ashols Melu was captain of the team that beat Italy 4-0 and each time this match clicks our minds, the only name that pops out is Kalusha Bwalya. Yes, Kalusha Bwalya had a great night but Meluu was definitely the man of the match.
From chest to feet, he had such a balanced body and Zambia has never again seen a quality center back of his magnitude.
Melu actually like Sunzu and now Mwepu began his career as a striker and was a top goal scorer in the Zambian league in 1983, scoring 43 goals in all competitions with most of them scored from distance and free-kicks and winning the Zambian Footballer of the Year award.
He was fondly known as a man without a bone Marrow as his ferocious shots from distance were barely stopped by goalkeepers.
In 1986, he converted himself into a defender and was even better in his new position than he was upfront. Melu carried the calmness of a butterfly on the ball, his ball control and drive in the most delicate position on the football field was matchless.
He stood rock solid and arrested everything thrown at him with calm and easy. His penetrating moves going forward were quick lighting and a joy to see, his holding of the ball top-notch and his passing prowess and ball distribution was class way above anything that came after him hitherto.
He was strong, resilient, intelligent and towered with flamboyant swagger. Playing just behind Chomba Samuel and Derby Makinka in front of him as cover,
Zoom possessed a rare quality of overlapping from his central defensive duties zooming past strikers into the midfield with such deft and easy.
After the Olympics, he went on to play in Greece and Australia and by 1992, he had failed to beat stiff competition from young Robert Watyakeni. He wasn’t called for the match against Senegal in 1993 and that’s how he wasn’t part of the squad that perished in Gabon.