Just when we though we’ve heard the last of Lionel Messi breaking the calendar year goal scoring record, the Zambian FA and Flamengo rise to challenge the achievement, claiming that either Godfrey Chitalu from Kabwe Warriors or the legendary Zico already hold the mentioned milestone.
A day after Messi reached his 86th goal in 2012, breaking Gerd Muller’s record from 1972, we learned that 40 years ago was a very special year indeed. Apparently, according to the Zambian FA, Chitalu scored 107 goals while playing for Kabwe warriors that year and also for the national team, and people are currently working on retrieving all of the records from that time.
We have this record, which has been recorded in Zambian football, but unfortunately it has not been recorded in world football. Even as the world has been looking at Lionel Messi’s record, breaking Gerd Müller’s, the debate and discussion back here has been why Godfrey’s goals are not being recognized.
Even if Zambia’s appeal does come through in CAF and later on with FIFA, it’s hard to believe he’ll be remembered outside Zambia, let alone Africa. They’ll just change Messi’s record to a European one, or the modern-day one. Players from forgotten clubs and tiny footballing nations don’t get to be remembered that well. Chitalu did on April 27, 1993, along with 29 other people when the plane that was carrying the national team to Senegal crashed into the sea.
But not just in Africa is Messi’s record being disputed. As you might have expected, the Brazilians, or more accurately Flamengo, are claiming that Zico scored a total of 89 goals in 1979, although the most we’ve found on the net on different websites recording Brazilian goals is 81, found on Lancenet. However, team research and statistics coordinator Bruno Lucena also told Lancenet that Zico scored seven times for the Brazil national team and once for a Rest of the World XI against Argentina, bringing his tally up to 89.
What’s more? Zico missed two months during that season due to an injury. We are upset. Messi has not passed his record. If he had played the whole year, it is a certainty that he would have more than 100 goals.
Why were these names and numbers never mentioned before? Maybe because no one thought Messi would break the record. Maybe because it was actually forgotten until someone on a big club like Barcelona, playing for Argentina and the rest of the time involved in European football, the dominant force when it comes to club football around the world, came close to touching it. Even if Zico or Chitalu eventually get official recognition, it won’t matter. People remember what they want to remember, preferably what they’ve gotten to see. Messi’s 2012 season will be the one that stands the test of time.