Collins Mbesuma: Hoping to prove a point to Europe

You can count the amount of Premier League appearances he made on one hand, but Zambia’s Collins Mbesuma will be aiming to put himself back in the spotlight in tonight’s Africa Cup of Nations final against Cote D’Ivoire.

Sam Allardyce is renowned for his thrifty exploits in the transfer market. But the story of Zambian forward Collins Mbesuma will go down as a near miss in his history of acquisitions.

Mbesuma had been prolific in the 2004/05 season for South African side Kaizer Chiefs, scoring 34 goals. That fruitful form caught the eye of several European clubs, with Bolton Wanderers and Allardyce being the first to make their move. However Bolton were only willing to offer the then 21-year-old a four-day trial as they had reservations about his ability to adjust to the Premier League. Slightly offended, the Mbesuma camp held out for a permanent deal.

Sure enough, Portsmouth made a £500,000 bid and the ‘bulky’ Zambian, as the BBC described him, became one of Alain Perrin’s first major signings.

“There were no hard feelings with Bolton and the manager was great – but they just wanted to look at Collins for a three or four days,” said the agent of ‘The Hurricane’, Mike Makab.

“There was enough interest from other clubs for Collins.

“I think Pompey’s gain will be a few other clubs’ loss.”

Mbesuma during a Golden Arrows game last season.

When Cote D’Ivoire and Zambia clash in tonight’s Africa Cup of Nations final in Libreville, Mbesuma will start on the bench for the Copper Bullets. Despite 14 goals in 36 appearances for the national team, Mbesuma, now 28, has never quite reached the dizzy heights once predicted for him.

After overcoming work permit problems to finally sign for Pompey late in pre-season of 2005, it was quickly realised by all that Mbesuma was overweight. Added to that, in September 2005, he was accused by Zambia fans of being drunk before a World Cup qualifier against Senegal. Both Mbesuma and the Zambian FA denied the allegation.

Although Perrin’s Portsmouth were struggling in the league, the manager still felt he couldn’t call on Mbesuma, who was still carrying baggage despite banging goals in for the reserves.

“I can score. I feel I can get the goals and my fitness is getting close now. If you are playing every game for the reserves and scoring it gives you confidence,” said an increasingly frustrated Mbesuma.

“And I have the confidence now to play against the best teams.”

He did eventually make his debut for Portsmouth, becoming the first Zambian to play in the Premier League – but made just four substitute appearances in the 2005/06 Premier League season. Harry Redknapp came in as the new manager and Portsmouth and didn’t fancy Mbesuma – sending him out on loan to Maritimo for the following campaign.

The Zambian started well at the Portuguese club but, after a goal-filled start, his form drastically dipped during the second half of the season. He finished with just seven goals for the season.

As high-flying Bolton Wanderers and Sam Allardyce undoubtedly sported an arrogant smile upon observing the development of Mbesuma, Pompey fans too were incredulous toward him.

One article suggested that the club should offer pies and cheap Portugese beer as an incentive to improve his performances.

He was eventually shipped off to Bursaspor for another unsuccessful spell which included just six appearances and no goals. Mbesuma was also fined €5,000 after arriving back in Turkey late after a World Cup qualifier – another nail in the coffin of his European ‘adventures’.

After being left out of the Zambia squad for the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations due to a lack of fitness, Mbesuma finally called time on his sojourn of the major football scene and returned to South Africa. Mamelodi Sundowns and Moroka Swallows both took chances on the striker but both spells ended in more disappointment.

After a six-month break from the game, Mbesuma returned leaner and meaner with Golden Arrows in 2010, where his form has improved. In his first 20 games for the mid-table Premier Soccer League side, he scored 11 goals and helped guide the club to an 11th place finish in the 2010-11 season.

This resurgence has seen him re-establish himself in the international set up in Zambia. Though he has only started as a substitute for each of the nation’s 2012 Africa Cup of Nations matches, his very presence in the squad, despite his problems with attitude, weight and allegedly alcohol, show his raw talent.

If he comes on to score the winner in tonight’s final, it is unlikely Sam Allardyce will look on in too much horror. But a good performance and an Africa Cup of Nations winner’s medal, will go some way to righting the wrongs of his unfulfilled potential in the Premier League.

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3 Comments to “Collins Mbesuma: Hoping to prove a point to Europe”

  1. Nice article. I’ve seen Collins play for Swallows and Arrows here in SA in recent years. Have to say he is still struggling with weight issues. During his spell at swallows I would say he was the second fattest professional footballer I have seen playing live. The first being Brazillian striker Mário Jardel during his brief spell at Bolton – interestingly also signed by Sam Allardyce.

  2. mbesuma is gud no doubt pipo shud appreciate

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