Sport

2014: Junior teams steal limelight for Zambian football, squash succeeds

Again Zambian football scored remarkable success in 2014. The under-20 and under-17 qualified for the CAF Youth Championship in Senegal and Niger, respectively, the women’s under-17 made a maiden appearance at the FIFA World Cup and the senior team did the same by qualifying for the 2014 Africa Women Championship in Namibia and the junior Chipolopolo won gold at the Africa Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Games in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. ROBINSON KUNDA and ELIZABETH CHATUVELA reflect on the achievements.
THE year 2014 will go down in history as one of the most successful for Zambian football.
Several Zambia national teams scored extraordinary accomplishments that have never been achieved before.
National team
Frenchman Patrice Beaumelle left the Chipolopolo just weeks before the start of 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
However, the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) quickly appointed Honour Janza to take up the mantle. The former technical director did not take long to settle in his new job.
Although qualifying for the Africa Cup has become more like a birthright for Zambia, Janza and his charges deserve a pat on the back for overcoming challenges and booking a place at the continental competition to be hosted by Equatorial Guinea.
Zambia’s chances of qualifying for the Africa Cup looked bleak following a virgin draw against Mozambique in Ndola, a 1-2 loss to Cape Verde and another barren draw against Niger in Niamey.
However, the Chipolopolo turned things around when they stunned the Mambas 1-0 with Given Singuluma’s second-half strike in Maputo to clinch the qualification with a home game to spare against Niger.
Zambia also played a high-profile friendly game against Japan in the United States of America which the Chipolopolo narrowly lost 4-3.
The dark side of the Chipolopolo was the unceremonial send-off of former skipper Christopher Katongo who reportedly differed with Janza over tactical issues.
Under-20 national team
The Hector Chilombo-drilled side had an impressive year that saw them qualifying for the Africa Youth Championship after a three year absence.
Apart from qualifying for the Senegal 2015 Youth Championship, the under-20 also won a gold medal at the Africa Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 under-20 Games held in Zimbabwe to end the year on a good note.
Under-17 national team
The national team is part of the history that Zambia recorded in 2014 by securing a maiden qualification for the Africa Junior Championship to be hosted by Niger.
Surely, it was not a mean achievement for coach Chris Kaunda’s boys to book a place at the continental tournament, especially that Zambia has never been represented at such an event before.
Senior women national team
Although protests over unpaid allowances overshadowed the She-polopolo’s qualification for the 2014 Africa Women Championship that was hosted by Namibia, the team deserves praise for becoming the first Zambian team to have ever participated at the continental championship.
The team, under the tutelage of Charles Bwale, scored high by qualifying for the Africa Cup although they did not perform very well at the final tournament in Namibia where they only managed a draw and three losses.
Under-17 women
The under-17 women team had a fairly successful year having participated in the 2014 World Junior Championship held in Costa Rica in March.
Indeed, 2014 was a year of records for Zambia as this was the first time Zambia was making an appearance at such an event after eliminating favourites South Africa in the qualifiers.
CAF competitions
Nkana defied all odds and became only the second team to make it to the group stage of the lucrative Confederation Cup apart from Zanaco.
The team, which was eliminated from the CAF Champions League, did the country proud by qualifying for the Confederation Cup group stage after beating Bizerte FC of Morocco.
However, the death of Nkana coach Masautso Mwale in a road traffic accident overshadowed the team’s achievements.
Super Division
Once again the 2014 MTN Super Division championship had to be decided on the last day of the season with Zesco United clinching the fourth title after beating ‘Magnificent’ Kabwe Warriors 3-1 at Trade Fair ground in Ndola.
It was a tough season with Zesco, Zanaco and Power Dynamos all in contention for the trophy going into the season closing Week 34 fixtures.
However, Zanaco suffered an imaginable 4-1 defeat to Red Arrows who were fighting relegation to ultimately hand George ‘Chicken’ Lwandamina’s men the title.
At the bottom, Arrows and Green Buffaloes found themselves in unfamiliar positions as they spent half the season fighting relegation.
FAZ vice-president Boniface Mwamelo said the way the league ended signified the high level of competition in Zambian football.
Mwamelo said the association is happy with the numerous achievements that were recorded in Zambian football in 2014.
He said FAZ will be hoping to do even better in 2015.
SQUASH
Like football, squash equally recorded notable success in 2014.
The sport which had been dormant for years has seen massive improvement from the time the Norena Chiteba-led Zambia Squash Association (ZSA) executive took over two years ago.
ZSA managed to host the flagship tournament Zambia Open Championship at the Taj Pamodzi Hotel in Lusaka, which attracted 34 participants from across the Southern Africa.
South Africa-based player Kelvin Ndhlovi won the men’s category, while Sharon Chimfwembe reigned supreme in the women section.
The association also supervised the Copperbelt Open Championship which was sponsored by Zesco Limited.
What was even more impressing was ZSA’s capacity to raise funds that enabled them to host the Zambia Open at a time when most of the associations are struggling to lure the corporate world.
The sport is headed for unpreceded success if ZSA will continue on the same path next year.
CYCLING
Cycling in Zambia is almost non-existent.
The sport was quiet throughout the year and as if that was not bad enough, the executive failed to pay affiliation fees to the National Sports Council of Zambia (NSCZ) resulting in its disaffiliation.
JUDO
Judo recorded some remarkable results both on and off the mat in the year 2014.
The sport which is managed by the Zambia Judo Association (ZJA) started the year with an outing to Tunisia in March, for the Africa Youth Championship where Mary Kanyemba minted a bronze.
In July, the association reaped two more medals at the Africa Youth Olympics held in Botswana after Joshua Nyondo grabbed a silver and gold before minting bronze at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Veteran judoka Boas Munyonga grabbed bronze which was one of the two medals that Zambia collected at the Glasgow Games. The other bronze medal was won by boxer Ben Muziyo.
However, it different at the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympics in China, where sole representative Nokuthula Banda failed to impress.
This was, however, compensated for this month when the sport reaped five medals at the 2014 Africa Union Commission Sports Council Region 5 Games held in Zimbabwe.
Zambia won two gold, silver and two bronze medals.
Female judokas Abigail Chindele and Kanyemba minted gold with David Chisenga reaping silver while Nyondo and Lungowe Chindele collected bronze, apiece.
On the local scene, ZJA managed to stage the annual Japanese Ambassador’s Trophy in November and the Grand Master tournament in October, among others.
National Sports Council of Zambia
The National Sports Council of Zambia (NSCZ) managed to bring sanity to sport as can be evidenced by massive reduction in wrangling in most associations.
NSCZ chairman Mwamba Kalenga continued preaching about good governance in sports and most administrators are abiding by their constitutions.
The council also presented its audited books of accounts something that has never happened for a decade.
The sports mother body generally performed well both in terms of providing guidance and funding to its affiliates.

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