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White water rafting in Zambia takes place on the Zambezi River
White water rafting in Zambia takes place on the Zambezi River | © Make Lemons / Flickr
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9 Sports You Didn’t Know Are Popular in Zambia

Picture of Mazuba Kapambwe
Freelance Writer
Updated: 16 May 2018
Soccer may be Zambia’s most popular sport, but it’s for good reason; the national soccer team won the Africa Cup of Nations (world cup for African teams) and in 2012, the under-20 national soccer team won the Under-20 African Nations Cup. However, there are plenty of other sports that are popular in Zambia. Here are nine surprising sports you probably didn’t know are popular in Zambia.

Motor rally

Motor rallies have been held in Zambia since 1969, as organized by the Zambia Motorsports Association. The Zambia International Motor Rally is held yearly (usually in April) in the capital city Lusaka, with competitive matches taking place in Chisamba, a town about 40 minutes drive from Lusaka. The motor rally has been won 14 times by Zambian Satwant Singh, who is also an eight-time winner of the African Rally Championship. Upon retiring in 2000, the rally has been dominated by Muna Singh (his nephew), Jassy Singh, and Mohammed Essa.

Rugby

According to CNN, “Zambia has 10,200 registered (rugby) players–1,600 men, 200 women, and 8,400 youths–and has 16 clubs across the country, twice as many as in 1996.” In 2016, the Zambia Rugby Sevens team was formed featuring semi-professional players. They placed fourth at the Africa Sevens Cup, which qualified them for entrance to the Commonwealth Games in February 2018. To see the Zambia Rugby Sevens team in action, head to the Zambia Sevens international games with the next one scheduled for September 1–2, 2018 in Lusaka.

Golf

Golf was brought to Zambia by the British, who constructed the first golf club in Livingstone in 1907, with other clubs forming in 1912 (Kasama), 1921 (Ndola), and in Lusaka and other towns across Zambia. Golf tournaments have been held since 1954, such as the now defunct Cock of The North, and current tournaments such as the Zambia Open, The ZANACO Masters tournament, and the Zambia Open Ladies’ championship.

Polocrosse

Although polocrosse is a relatively new sport in Zambia, the national team beat world champions South Africa in the opening match of the 2015 world cup. They subsequently obtained a silver medal in the same competition. There are various leagues such as Under 16, Under 14, Under 19, and a women’s team. There are also several tournaments hosted in Lusaka that polocrosse lovers can attend, such as the ZANACO Polocrosse Tournament at the Lusaka South Country Club on May 19 and 20, and the annual Zambia Polocrosse Open which is usually held at the end of August or early September.

Boxing

After soccer (called football in Zambia), boxing is probably the second most watched sport in Zambia. Successful boxers include Keith Mwila, who won bronze in the flyweight boxing category at the Olympics in 1984, and Lottie Mwale, who was a light heavyweight boxer and represented Zambia at the 1974 Commonwealth Games winning a gold medal. In recent years, female boxers have emerged, such as Esther Phiri and Catherine Phiri (no relation), with the latter still being active. Boxing matches are usually held at the Government Complex in Lusaka and screened on the national broadcaster.

Swimming

With the opening of the Olympic Youth Development Center (OYDC) , more young people have the opportunity to become competitive swimmers in Zambia. There are several amateur group, such as the Lusaka Sharks, and unions like the Zambia Swimming Union. Swimmers who have represented Zambia at the Olympics include Leonard Ngoma, Ellen Hight, and Jade Howard. Swimmers like Tilka Pajik represented the country at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Mountain biking

Most of Zambia’s physical landscape is dominated by plateau, which makes it a great mountain biking country. There are several amateur riders who form riding groups like the Twin Palm Bike Club in Lusaka, and the Solwezi Cycling group in Western Zambia. In 2014, the 1 Zambia MTB competition was launched with a mission to “promote adventure mountain biking in Zambia and Southern Africa”. The two-day event starts at the Lilayi Lodge in Lusaka, then covers 155 miles of scenic countryside. The 2018 edition will be held across June 1–3.

White water rafting

White water rafting is one of many activities that can be done as a once-in-a-lifetime experience on the Zambezi river at the Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia. The river boasts rapids named ‘The Muncher’, and ‘Oblivion’ among others. In 2017, the first annual Zambezi White Water Festival took place over two days in Livingstone, and returns in 2018 from October 25–27. The competition takes place between Rapids 1–25 and is open to amateur teams.