The Mexican puzzle of "kalucha"

I play a lot of amateur soccer ("football", henceforth), as my poor right knee can attest. In the U.S., this inevitably means playing a lot with Spanish-speaking immigrants. As a result, my football Spanish has always been a lot better than my general-purpose Spanish (I do have to work on the latter).

One puzzle I've had for a while (at least a year) is why Mexicans call African players "kalucha". I've become quite used to being called that recently. Every call to me or other Africans on the field would use the term—"otra vez, kaLUcha!" or "chuta-la kaLUcha". I tried to puzzle it out in linguistic terms. Maybe it had something to do with "lucha"—"fight", "wrestling bout". Maybe it was a dig at the rather combative style of soccer African immigrants are used to. That didn't really sound right. When I asked a few of my Mexican friends, they said, they were not sure: they'd picked it up from their friends.

Last night I finally figured it out. Lori and I were watching a documentary that touched on the terrible tragedy of the 1993 Zambian football team plane crash. They happened to talk a bit about Kalusha Bwalya, the Zambian star who (with Charles Musonda) happened to miss the fatal plane ride because he played his professional football abroad and was to fly to Senegal separately. I'd known Kalucha had gone to Mexico, but I didn't know he played a time for the very popular Club América, nor did I know how hugely popular he'd become.

Mention Kalusha to any Mexican soccer fan and you could be certain they've met, heard of, or watched him on the screen. Having lived in Mexico for over five years , Kalusha has won hearts of most Mexicans and earned himself much respect.

In retrospect, this should have been obvious to me. As an example, I mentioned above the bit of Spanglish "chuta-la", in which "chuta" is a corruption of the English "shoot", because the "sh" sound does not occur naturally in Spanish and is generally corrupted to "ch". The same effect was changing "Kalusha" to "Kalucha". Most big-time soccer nations have a custom of local football nicknames taken from prominent stars. In Nigeria, we called each other "Keshi" or "Sia-Sia" depending on playing style or looks. Senegalese immigrants here in Colorado call each other "Diouf" and "Titi Camara". Mexicans call each other "Rafa" or "Borghetti" (wicked exciting player, that one). Clues were everywhere.

People call Bwayla "Kalu" for short. This is one of those names like "Obi" that are common throughout the African continent, with different meanings almost everywhere. In Igbo "Kalu" (with high tone and emphasis on the first syllable) is generally short for "Kamalu", meaning "thunder". It's a name I considered for Jide. Soccer is full of prodigious Kalus, including Nigerian Igbo Kalu Uche and Ivorian Bonaventure Kalou.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia
16 responses
I cannot stand Jared Borghetti. Dirty, violent, sore loser of a player.

Doesn't mean he's a bad footballer - he's a damn fine player when he's not taking cheap shots or whining - but I really can't stand him. I can only remember him in the 2002 WC, getting dirtier as it became clearer that the US was going to advance.

(Go USA! I can't wait for Germany 2006. Your boy Eddie Johnson is going to break out on the world stage like nobody's business. If we can just cobble a decent defense together...)
Ha.  Yeah, I remember that Borghetti.  I actually think he's got past that stage recently.  Lately he has focused more on his play than his antics, and it's done him a world of good.  Borghetti really became fun to watch this year.  Great performances in the Gold Cup and Confederations Cup.

Besides, when it comes to ugly Mexican players, it's hard to get the shadow of Blanco out of the mind.  Compared to Blanco, Borghetti is a saint.

Anyway, co-sign on the GO USA 2006!  I also hope Nigeria manages to squeak in (not looking so good now), so I have two tickets in the raffle.

I think the US will surprise folks, for real.  I almost wish Kasey Keller weren't so awesome so that Joe Cannon would have a chance in goal (Matt Reis might be having a great year, but I think Cannon's far more fundamentally sound).  Regardless, it will take a lot of brilliance to get it past whatever keeper we field.  The defence is also looking tight.  Nice to see fellow Igbo Oguchi Onyewu doing so well in D at his young age, despote a costly mistake at the Azteca in Mexico's qualifier win this year.  Our midfield can battle it out with the best these days, now that they've dropped Donovan back, and can ghost most opponents for speed, considering Beasley and co.  And as for the strike force, Eddie Johnson needs to get over his turf toe quickly so he can put in enough appearances to secure a start, because with Dempsey and McBride playing lights out, it's looking great at striker.

It will be fun, for damn sure.
who in the fuck would actually think that the USA will go far in the 2006 world cup? the USA has advanced alot in the world of soccer. but when it comes to playing against the top dogs, they aren't shit. if anyone has a chance from CONCACAF is Mexico. they are the only ones from CONCACAF that have beat giants like Argentina and Brazil on more occasions than the USA. it doesn't even matter becuase Mexico, USA, and Costa Rica aren't going very far in the world cup, Argentina will win the next world cup
But what about the Landon Donovan factor?
LOL Screw you Guys GO JARED BORGhETTI. Hes Leading us to the WORLD CUP NIGGAZ
Uche - as usual good stuff from you ... Yeah Kalusha is a great player ... I get called that too ... Jared is more focused in no-nonsense English Premiership ...
fuck all of yall nigaz yall just fucken hating because he's better that all your fucken players.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ha Ha
Who the fuck dares to criticize a mexican player fuck y'all yankee a-holes you will lose first round for sure in germany.
I can't believe that many people in here are talking bad about Jared Borghetti. He has demonstrated his great capacity in the filed by playing in Europe with the English team Bolton. He has made history for Mexico, player with the most goals in the national team and first player to ever score in the English league. Altough he is a good player, he won't be the best palyer for Mexico in the world cup. I think the Mexican player who will help out the team will Francisco "Kikin" Fonseca. Now I won't critisize the US ntional team but they still don't have the capacity to win a world cup.
Hi Jared I find you are the best footbolplayer.But I do not know where you played in the year 2003/2004
I truely despise the way American (U.S.) media has affected the way of life in the states.  This bud's for you, here watch american idol forget about the war we are bringing to other countries.  This is your brain on drugs.  Fine!! I love America, but I will not stand to listen to  comentators on ESPN trying to hype this US team up.  Sure I understand that football (soccer) is still an infant here.  Even though soccer has been here for along time, and the popularity and support of the sport has not been present until recently.  Nevertheless,  The U.S team has a ways to go.  So finally after getting dominated by the Mexican National somebody finally sat down and figured out their rival's  weaknesses.  BIG DEAL!! So they can compete with Mexico.  Fine, one down the rest of the football nations to go.  In WC 2002 both Mexico and the States were lucky to end up facing each other.  Somebody had to win.  The U.S. got over the hump and now there a football power.?.?  HA!!!  Any true football fan would agree that the fifa ranking system doesn't justify a head to head match.  Mexico ranked 4th, does not mean that they will end up in fourth place in the tournament nor that they have the fourth best league in the world!!  The rankings show stats, yes. But numbers are abstract. 

I only wish I would not have stumbled on to this site so late into the tournament.  US, welcome to "the group of death,"  a situation that the Mexican National Team has been in not two times but twice consecutively. 94, 98 which they overcame.  Bruce Arena, Donovan, time to pack up your bags.  VIVA MEXICO!!!
I am sorry about the punctuation.  By the way, Jared Borgheti was probably playing for the Dorados de Sinaloa or the Tuzos de Pachuca, before he got picked up by the Bolton.  It's a shame that he is injured but he will not be terribly missed, until and if they overcome the group phase.
When I heard that usa and mexico were 4th and 5th ranking I was totally taken aback. As the games are being played I confirmated that whoever concocted this idiocy was absolutely wrong. I actually feel a little sorry (not much though) for the americans, specially in the games against Italy and Ghana, the referees weren't 100% fair to them, that said, americans still have a very naive game, Arena doesn't have the character or knowledge of a high class football trainer, he even looked listless and unaffected, is time for the good of this team that he goes, wherever. And for some of the players to shut up, learn, take a humility (humilliation) pill and play. Mexico, on the other hand shows more game. I think Lavolpe (the fox)is a good trainer, but he messed up when he left Cuauhtemoc out. He is paying for it. If Mexico doesn't perform in the next round, he'll be singing "Volver, con la frente marchita" in his "Mis buenos Aires querido". Enough of Ricardo, I actually like the man. I don't have many hopes for Mexico, specially now that they will face the future champs "Argentina", but I have to mention Kikin Fonseca and Osvaldo Sanchez, rising above their personal loses with finesse and bravado. And what can I say about Omarcito Bravo, that kid's got game. He is talented, humble, young and cute. I hope he takes advantage of all of these factors. (they don't last long) Well friends and admirers of the "Jogo Bonito", I hope I didn't bore you, but I just love football, fussball, futbol, soccer, calcio, or whatever you call it. As for me I will watch the rest of the World Cup and root for the fair Argentinians, the tacticians of Germany and the rhythmyc brasilians. Peace and love.
I hope that any team EXCEPT Brazil wins.  They get the games handed to them.  Ref's never catch them playing dirty they simply look away.  Funny how Mexican's always want Brazil to win after they get their asses beat by them even if Mexico played a better cleaner way.  Hopefully, one day they will wake up!

you know what ya'll shouldnt be talking about Jared Borghetti like that. Hes like the best Mexican player.And at the world cup 2006 the U.S team wasnt at their best, in fact i knew they wouldnt get far at the world cups. but i still went for the U.S and Mexico. But mostly Mexico. But what do I know Im just a girl right? (sarcastic)

I luv Jared Borghetti, Memo Ochoa, and Osvaldo Sanchez!!!!!!