This paper explores multiple and complex relationships between football (soccer), politics, and the economy in postcolonial Zambia. Based on archival and oral sources collected in Zambia, the paper argues that President Frederick Chiluba’s government failed to support football development when it came into power in 1991 because it was elected on a platform of liberalizing the collapsing national economy. Chiluba privatized state-owned companies that were sponsoring the game resulting in the plummeting of the local standards and migration of talented footballers abroad in search of better livelihoods. Furthermore, the paper argues that while the exodus of talented footballers led to the deterioration of the standards of the local league, their transnational experience boosted the performance of the Zambia national football team. This led to the emergence of one of the best national teams the country has ever had. Unfortunately, this particular team perished in the Gabon air disaster in 1993 following the government’s disinvestment in the game. However, a few months after the disaster, the country managed to rebuild a national football team, which emerged as runners up to Nigeria in the 1994 African Cup of Nations final as a result of a large pool of local and foreign-based football players.
Keywords: Football in Zambia, soccer in Zambia, sport history, football migration, football on the Copperbelt