I THOUGHT my Saturday would end with a smile but, alas, it was a miserable end. The disappointment came after Zambia lost 1-0 to Mozambique to exit the 2023 Algeria African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifying race. I, however, had a smile on my face after Liverpool thumped Manchester City 3-1 to win the Community Shield. It was one loss and one win on my part. Having battled to a goalless draw in the CHAN first round first leg in Maputo on July 23, Zambia needed victory to progress to the last round but the strikers were blunt at goal. Forwards Ricky Banda, the newly crowned 2021/2022 footballer-of-the-year and MTN Super League top scorer, and Albert Kangwanda were chief culprits, fluffing sure goals especially in the first half. Zambia coach Aljosa Asanovic and his assistants have to re-strategise to ensure the Chipolopolo do not miss out on qualifying for the 2023 Ivory Coast Africa Cup of Nations finals. With the defeat to Mozambique, the Chipolopolo will be inactive for a long time on the international front.
Had the Chipolopolo qualified for the CHAN last round, they could have faced Malawi on August 27 and the return leg a week later. But it will instead be the Mambas of Mozambique taking on Malawi. What next after the defeat to Mozambique? This is the question soccer fans and Zambians at large are asking. What is next is going back to the proverbial drawing board, for the umpteenth time at that. The defeat to the Mambas is an indictment on our local league and probably a sign of a shift of the football axis from the days when Zambia was a regional powerhouse. It could also point to the fact that the football lessons we have taught Mozambique through exports such as coach Wedson Nyirenda and a few players over the years are beginning to bear fruits for them while our development has stalled. Asanovic and his lieutenants have to analyse all the games the Chipolopolo have played this year and rectify mistakes. It is painful to miss out on CHAN especially that it is coming after the women national football team’s splendid performance at the Women Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco. The Copper Queens went on to qualify for the 2023 FIFA World Cup to be staged by Australia and New Zealand. The Chipolopolo bench should do a thorough job in strategising for the AfCON qualifiers set for next March when Zambia will face back to back matches against Lesotho. Lesotho held a star-studded Ivory Coast to a goalless draw in Johannesburg and this speaks volumes of their newly found pedigree. In the past, when any fixture against Lesotho was announced, it would only be a matter of the margin with which we would defeat them, but not anymore. With Saturday’s loss, there is no margin for error against Lesotho. We cannot afford to fail to qualify for the AfCON for the fourth consecutive time. Early preparations for the match against Lesotho will be key to success. Football Association of Zambia ((FAZ) should strive to arrange a friendly match during the FIFA window in September in a bid for Asanovic to have his stars in action. ************
I commend Zambian Breweries Plc for pumping K3 million into the Super League and K250,000 into the Samuel ‘Zoom’ Ndhlovu Charity Shield final between Red Arrows and Napsa Stars on August 13. The other sponsors of the Super League are MTN Zambia and SuperSport.
MTN Zambia remains the headline sponsor having contributed K43 million for a three-year deal last year. Zambian Breweries’ sponsorship of the Super League is for a season and I hope the alcohol-manufacturing firm will extend the deal when it expires. I am also keeping my fingers crossed that Zambian Breweries will reconsider sponsoring the Mosi Cup, which was popular among teams in the Premier League, especially the giant-killing acts when teams in lower echelons ousted their Super League counterparts. We cannot have only the Absa Cup, which is competed by six teams in the MTN Super League and two in Eden University National Division One, as the only competition in the country. Lusaka Celtic, then campaigning in Division One, were crowned Mosi Cup champions in 2004. The FAZ executive committee should continue knocking on doors of the corporate world so that the country could have several competitions that cater for all the teams in the Premier League.
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