ALEX NJOVU, Lusaka
NOT since Power Dynamos won the African Cup Winners’ Cup [now Confederation Cup] in 1991 has a Zambian club tasted success again on the continent.
Power, drilled by Fred Mwila, beat Nigerian side BBC Lions 5-4 over two legs.
Clubs like Nkana, Zesco United and Zanaco have flattered to deceive in recent times by getting into the group stages of club competitions run by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
The CAF inter-club competitions resume this weekend, and four Zambian clubs have, for the first time, an opportunity to go for ultimate glory.
That the country has four representatives in continental competitions is testament to the growth of Zambian football on the continent.
The country will have Zesco United and Zanaco in the CAF Champions League while Nkana and Green Buffaloes will hoist the flag in the Confederation Cup.
CAF awarded Zambia four slots in the two competitions because of Zesco and Zanaco’s good performances in 2016 and 2017 continental campaigns.
While Ndola-based Zesco reached the semi-finals two years ago, Lusaka-based Zanaco managed a group stage berth last year.
Zesco, who together with Zanaco have dominated local football in recent years, start the continental campaign with an away trip to Jeshi la Kujenga Uchumi of Zanzibar in the CAF Champions League preliminary round first leg on Saturday while Zanaco host Gambia Armed Forces.
Nkana, who in 1990 were runners-up in the then African Cup of Champions, the only Zambian team to ever reach the finals, are on bye in the first round of the Confederation Cup.
But Zambian Army side Buffaloes, who are returning to continental football after a 10-year hiatus, will be in Egypt to tackle Al Masry in the preliminary round first leg on Saturday.
It is a campaign to look forward to.
The 2018 CAF Champions League, officially called the 2018 Total CAF Champions League for sponsorship reasons, is Africa’s premier club football tournament.
The winners qualify as the CAF representatives at the FIFA Club World Cup.
Over the past 54 years, a number of teams have made a mark in continental club football.
These include TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Al Ahly, Zamalek and Ismaily (Egypt), Raja Casablanca and Wydad Casablanca (Morocco), Espérance, Sfaxien and Etoile du Sahel (Tunisia), JS Kabylie and Setif (Algeria), Enyimba and Shooting Stars (Nigeria), Canon Yaoundé and Coton Sport (Cameroon) and Africa Sports and ASEC Mimosas (Ivory Coast), Orland Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa) and Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko (Ghana).
But two years after reaching the last four, Zesco should believe that they have an unfinished business in Africa’s prestigious club competition.
Interim coach Tenant Chembo has kept the core of the team that campaigned on the continent in 2016.
Skipper Jacob Banda, hard tackler David Odhiambo, midfielders Kondwani Mtonga and John Ching’andu, and strikers Jesse Were and Lazarus Kambole will lead Zesco’s chase for the elusive trophy.
These players were influential in Zesco’s sixth league triumph last year.
New inclusions include Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations winning skipper Solomon Sakala and 2015 Zambia best player and top scorer Winston Kalengo, who returns to the club after a two year stint in Congo- Brazzaville.
Following their impressive performance last year in the CAF Champions League where they reached the group stage, the bankers will be looking to build on that.
Unfortunately, this time around, Zanaco will be without playmaker Augustine Mulenga, who has joined Orlando Pirates.
Therefore, coach Mumamba Numba will rely on Felix Nyaende, Ernest Mbewe and skipper Toaster Nsabata when the campaign starts against The Gambian side on Saturday.
Numba, whose side reached the Confederation Cup group stage in 2010, has also recruited midfielders Guily Manziba, Tafadwa Rusike, Jack Chileshe, Moussa Souleymanou and strikers Maisha Chavda, Bernard Ofori and Romaric Pitroipa, among others.
Nkana have an impressive record in the CAF club competitions and their hard-to-impress fans will expect coach Beston Chambeshi to go all the way. The former red devils reached the group stage of the Confederation Cup in 2014 after dropping out of the Champions League under late coach Masautso Mwale.
Familiar foes Zamalek beat Nkana 5-0 on aggregate in the second round of the CAF Champions League for the Kitwe giants to drop to the Confederation Cup.
“We want to do very well in the CAF competition. We want to go very far,” Chambeshi says.
New players such as Ghanaian goalkeeper Stephen Adams, defender Gift Zulu, midfielder Yannick Mulenda, strikers Idris Mbombo, Humphrey Maseneko and Festus Mbewe are expected to deliver for the Wusakile outfit.
Mbombo has experience on the continent having netted five times for Zesco in the 2016 campaign.
Green Buffaloes will be hoping for better fortunes on their return to continental football. They face Egyptian side Al Masry in the preliminary round first leg in Port Saidi on Saturday night.
It is always tricky facing North African opposition.
But Zambia Army commander Lieutenant General Paul Mihova has directed the soldiers to conquer Africa.
“We have prepared well for Al Masry. We have a good squad that will give us the results,” Buffaloes coach Bilton Musonda says.
The Army side have retained players that guided the team to a fourth-place finish in the Super Division last season.
In goalkeeper Davy Kaumbwa, defender Adrian Chama, and midfielders Jackson Chirwa, Mike Katiba and Felix Katongo, Buffaloes have ammunition to gun down opponents.
There is also striker Friday Samu who has an eye for goal.
Chama, Chirwa, Katiba and Samu, were part of the national team that reached the quarter-finals at the just-ended African Nations Championship in Morocco.
Musonda has also recruited midfielders Youremember Banda from Napsa Stars and Eddie Sinyangwe from Lumwana Radiants to bolster the squad.
Let the games begin.