Football: Who Holds the Record, Argentina's Messi or Zambia's Chitalu?

Argentinian footballer Lionel Messi has broken most football records including the number of goals scored in a season, or has he?

An unlikely challenger to Messi, who is a marvel to watch when he turns up for his Spanish la Liga team FC Barcelona, has emerged in Zambia – in the form of a footballer who died nearly 20 years ago.

Godfrey Chitalu was with 30 other team members and administrators when a plane carrying the Zambia National Team to a World Cup outing in Senegal crashed in Gabon on April 28, 1993.

Godfrey Chitalu was well known by his moniker Ucar, and at the time of his death was National team coach. Ucar which almost became like his middle name – originated from his boundless energy on the pitch like the battery UCAR (made by Union Carbide) which powered the two-band radio sets people listened to football commentaries on.

One website, the Bleacher Report, noted of Chitalu who is reputed to have scored 107 goals in the 1972 season:

Don't rewrite that record book just yet—unless the name Godfrey Chitalu is going in.

On Twitter, the name Godfrey Chitalu went viral after western media reported Messi’s supposed record breaking goal-scoaring.

@oluwashina Dear Messi, yes you've surpassed Gerd Muller's record but not Godfrey Chitalu's 107 goals in a calendar year 1972. *In MJ's voice – Beat it*

One tweep disputing Messi’s record and seemingly accusing western media of biasness, wrote:

@bishopskid14 @world_dream that goal record is held by godfrey chitalu another example of clear bias

UKZambians, a citizen media website based in the UK, quoted a Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) official:

Even as the world has been looking at Lionel Messi’s record, breaking Gerd Muller’s, the debate and discussion back here has been why Godfrey’s goals are not being recognized. What we are doing is, we have commissioned an independent team locally to go back into the archives and record minute-by-minute each of those goals. The team that we have put together is going to calculate all of those goals, recording which ever game or tournament they were scored in.

We will then send that to CAF [Confederation of African Football] and FIFA so that we can show that, while Messi’s record is there, while Muller’s record is there, the actual record holder in terms of goals per calendar year is actually an African. It’s actually Godfrey Chitalu.


Arguably, Zambia’s football at that time was not as professional as it is today, but football-loving Zambians can only hope that at least their record keeping improves from this story.


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