He ruled Zambia for 27 years, but by the late 1980s the economy was a mess. Zambia had to withdraw from hosting the 1988 African Nations Cup because of a lack of funds and Kaunda was finally voted out of office in 1991. As the copper mines passed into private hands, funding for football began to dry up.
Travel to away games became increasingly difficult, with the national federation (FAZ) lacking the funds to charter planes or even to pay for seats on passenger aircraft. Frequently they would turn to the Zambian Air Force and ask to borrow a jet. Poverty wasn't just because of economic circumstance; in August 1992, shortly before World Cup qualifying, the chairman of the FAZ, Jabes Zulu, and associate Wilfrid Monani were suspended after funds earned on a tour of Korea vanished.
Zambia won their first two games in the first qualifying phase, but then faced a trip to Madagascar. As so often, they ended up borrowing a Buffalo from the ZAF. When they stopped for refuelling in Malawi, there was a dispute over payment. After hours trapped on the runway, the plane eventually took off again for a five-hour trip over the Indian Ocean. The pilot insisted the players wore their life-jackets. The players joked about it, and Johnson Bwalya took some light-hearted photographs, but there was an awareness that this was not really something to joke about. "The boys, Kalusha said, "always used to say, 'This plane will kill us some day.'
Zambia lost that game, which led to Samuel Nhdlovu being sacked as coach. His replacement, Godfrey Chitalu, then fell ill, but as he recovered so did the team. But not the FAZ's finances. Flying home on the Buffalo from a Cup of Nations qualifier from Mauritius, young forward Kelvin Mutale spoke to journalist Beauty Lupiya, telling her that even if the plane crashed they'd be safe because it would float. She told him not to be so morbid, but noticed how the plane struggled to gain altitude.
A week later, the players boarded the plane again for the game against Senegal. Kalusha and Charles Musonda of Anderlecht had missed the Mauritius game and so made their own way to west Africa. The plane's captain, Feston M'hone, wanted to fly from Lusaka to Brazzaville, then on to Libreville and Abidjan before finally arriving in Dakar, the sheer number of refuelling stops suggesting how unsuitable a vehicle it was for the journey. There was, as so often, a delay, because as a military craft the Buffalo was denied permission to cross Congolese air space.
The decision was taken to fly directly to Libreville. The Buffalo landed and refuelled. According to the Gabonese minister of transport it had routine checks and then took off again. Two minutes later it exploded, killing all five crew and 25 passengers. Whether the Buffalo floated or not was irrelevant. Mutale, then 23, was one of those killed. Six members of the 1988 Olympic squad, including the goalkeeper Efford Chabala, died. So too did the 19-year-old Moses Chikwalakwala, Zambia's Young Player of the Year in 1992.
There were claims the plane had been shot down by the Gabonese military, mistaking it for an invasion force. Diplomatic relations between Gabon and Zambia were shattered, neither country wanting to pay for an investigation and each trying to put the blame on the other. Being a military plane, there was no black-box flight recorder. Eventually, in 2003, the official report was released. It was inconclusive, but blamed a defect in the left engine.
Kalusha became the centrepiece of a new team, which became known as the Chipolopolo, the Copper-headed Bullets. Remarkably, under two Danish coaches and then the former Sunderland player, Ian Porterfield, a young side rallied. Kalusha scored an equaliser in Zimbabwe that took Zambia to the Nations Cup. They fought back in World Cup qualifying, but were denied an emotional qualification when they lost to Morocco in their final game. Twice Zambia hit the post, and they also protested about the refereeing of Jean-Fidel Diramba (from Gabon).
"Innuendoes against Gabon, wrote the Times of Zambia, "will continue to fly for as long as memories of the crash, the frustrated searchers, the almost triumphant grin of a referee named Diramba, linger on in the Zambian mind. It's just as well the draw for this tournament placed Zambia in Equatorial Guinea not in Gabon, who are co-hosts.
There was still the 1994 Cup of Nations. Zambia were impressive, seemed to have momentum. They reached the semi-final, and beat Mali 4–0. But the Nigeria of Sunday Oliseh, Rashidi Yekini and Jay-Jay Okocha were too strong in the final and won 2–1. They have never come as close to a major title since.
Kalusha played till his mid-30s, had a stint as coach and is now president of FAZ. "People cannot help but think about what might have been, Kalusha said. "We were a team with confidence, who wanted to reach the World Cup and were ready for it. We desperately want to achieve something still.
As the former British colony of Northern Rhodesia, Zambia did not participate in World Cup qualification play until after its independence in 1964. The country's football association was formed in 1929 and joined FIFA in 1964.