Zambia's love for Leicester City goes back decades, well before Patson Daka arrived

Leicester City Football Club has only ever received one letter from a Head of State, and it came from Zambia president Kenneth Kaunda in 1968, following the Foxes' tour to the African nation.

Kaunda, Zambia's first president after the country gained independence from Great Britain in 1964, described the tour as, "probably the greatest occasion in the history of Association Football in Zambia", and to this day an ardent fanbase spurns the usual continental obsession of Manchester United as a result.

The Foxes won all six of their tour fixtures. Three were against the Zambian national team, two against a Zambian FA XI, and one against an English FA Player/Coaches XI which accompanied them on the tour.

They became a Zambian favourite regardless of the drubbing, and that connection has endured for the more than five decades since, though it was boosted last July with the signature of Chipolopolo star Patson Daka.

Leicester City historian and archivist John Hutchinson recounted to ESPN that the Foxes toured Zambia between 18 May and 6 June 1968, with an eye to promoting and developing football in Zambia.

"The Leicester City party [on the tour] included big names like Peter Shilton, who won more caps for England than anybody else," Hutchinson told ESPN.

"There was Peter Rodrigues, who was a Welsh international. There was David Nish, who played for England. There was Dave Gibson, who played for Scotland. It was the full first team that went."

Kaunda wrote to LCFC chairman Alf Pallett to thank him for the visit, for his kind words about Zambia (and Kaunda's wife), and for the footballing advice the Foxes gave to the Zambian players and coaches. The type-written and browning letter sits in the Leicester City archives.

The following year, Musa Kasonka, the Director of Sport in Zambia, wished the Foxes good luck ahead of their [lost] FA Cup final against Manchester City, writing in a telegram: "On behalf of all Sports Associations and the Ministry of Sport in Zambia, we wish you success at Wembley... Your success will also be ours."

Felix Munyika, the Zambia Olympic Committee communications officer, inherited his father's love of Arsenal, but decided after Daka's move to Leicester that the combination of his compatriot joining the Foxes and the history between the club and Zambia meant that he had no option but to switch allegiance.

Munyika told ESPN: "I think I will be a Leicester City supporter [even after Daka leaves]. For me, I feel he is just transitioning. Leicester City have given him a platform, it is the club that has accepted Patson Daka the way he is right now and they have seen him develop.

"They are helping us develop our players. I'm very certain that in the future, it won't just end with Patson Daka. This is just a platform for other Zambian players to join Leicester City or another English Premier League club. For now until I don't know when, I can commit myself to being a Leicester City supporter."

Leicester City's only official supporters club in Africa is in Cape Town, but Munyika said he was hoping to play a role in establishing one in Lusaka, his home city and the nation's capital.

There was a noticeable Zambian contingent present at the Otkrytiye Arena in Moscow as Daka scored all four Foxes goals in Leicester's 4-3 Europa League win over Spartak on 20 October 2021.

In doing so, he became the first Zambian player to score a hat-trick in a major European competition.

Ackim Nyirenda, who moved from Zambia to Moscow to further his studies in civil engineering, tried to persuade as many of his nearby compatriots as possible to attend the match with him. They were treated to a masterclass and gained attention on social media for their passionate support.

Like Munyika, Nyirenda now considers himself a Leicester City fan. However, his decision to support the club was not motivated by the 1968 tour.

"I've always been interested in football because of my dad, who loved Manchester United... I decided to choose another team. I saw Ronaldinho, Xavi and Barcelona playing so well, so I chose Barcelona," Nyirenda told ESPN.

"At the moment, I'm 100% a Leicester City fan because I'm always behind Patson Daka... I actually watch all Leicester City matches.

"I know a lot of other Zambians who are genuine Leicester City fans. Leicester City is not a team that will qualify for the Champions League, but we have so many great players like Jamie Vardy. Everyone in Zambia loves Leicester City."

Nyirenda has a RB Salzburg shirt with Daka's name on the back, which he said the striker gave him during his time playing for the Austrian club as they visited Lokomotiv Moscow in the 2020/21 Champions League.

At one point, he considered himself a Salzburg fan, but he, like Munyika, said that he would not abandon the Leicester City ship even if Daka left: "It's really important for us to recognise that even though Patson Daka plays for Leicester, a time will come when he is going to leave.

"Still, we need to treasure that history and not only the current situation that we have right now. Even if Patson Daka was to leave today, I would still respect Leicester City for helping with the upbringing of Daka.

"They would have helped him develop his talent and helped in any other aspect -- even just the connection between Zambians and Leicester City fans."

According to Hutchinson, Zambian supporters have become a noticeable presence on the club's social media pages since Daka joined. However, this is not the only time an African player had brought a large fan base from his home country with him to the Foxes.

Riyad Mahrez (Algeria), Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria), Kelechi Iheanacho (Nigeria) and Daniel Amartey (Ghana) have had similar impacts.

So far, Daka's record in blue has been respectable. He has scored 10 goals in 28 appearances this season, trailing only James Maddison (13) and Jamie Vardy (12) in the club top scorers' list.

While he may not be the first African to perform well in Leicester City colours or become a fan favourite, Daka has uniquely succeeded in connecting the Foxes' past with their present and future, which looks set to involve a sizeable contingent of Zambian supporters for some years to come.