'I know I will play football again'

By Kennedy GondweBBC World Service, Lusaka, Zambia
Changwe Kalale

For talented Zambian footballer Changwe Kalale, joy turned to agony in a matter of minutes towards the end of 2014.

Instead of playing in his first Africa cup of Nations, he followed the progress of his team-mates in Equatorial Guinea from a hospital bed nursing serious injuries suffered in a road accident on 14 December.

Kalale and two team-mates, Nyambe Mulenga and Satchmo Chakawa, were travelling to Lusaka to join Zambia's pre-Nations Cup training camp when their minibus collided head-on with another vehicle.

Four people were killed while eight others, including Kalale, Mulenga and Chakawa, suffered an assortment of injuries.

A spinal injury has left Kalale with limited movement from the waist down and the midfielder - one of Zambia's most promising young players - has been told by doctors that he may never walk again, let alone kick a football.

However, the 17-year-old, who has remained in hospital since the accident, has vowed to recover and resume his football career.

"I can't give up on football just because of that accident," Kalale told BBC Sport in an exclusive interview at Nchanga South Hospital in the mining town of Chingola.

"After the accident, I wasn't able to move. All I could do is sleep on the bed. But I'll be back, I know I will play football again. It's a matter of time.

"It has been a very painful experience for me especially because my career was on the rise. I'm sure I'd have played at the Africa Cup of Nations but the accident ruined all my plans."

Kalale earned his first senior international cap in a friendly against Ivory Coast in October last year and was highly regarded as one for the future.

He now faces months of physiotherapy and rehabilitation but says he is spurred on by the thought he "could be dead or completely paralysed".

Kalale's plight has once again thrown the spotlight on players who are injured while on national duty. Although the Football Association of Zambia have raised their hands in helplessness, the player's father, Bernard, refuses to blame anyone for the accident.

"I have three sons who play football and what happened to Changwe cannot make me tell them to stop playing football - it was an accident and it could have happened to anyone," he said.

"There was a period when my son was critical and we never thought he would come back to life in the manner he has.

"As a family, we are really grateful for all the support we are receiving and we take a lot of courage and confidence that our son will play football again."