Game ON! with BENEDICT TEMBO
THE gesture by Government to give a go-ahead to the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) to host this year’s Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) Under-20 Championship is beyond welcome; good tidings as the memories of the continental event hosted in Ndola and Lusaka remain ever fresh for the nation was left in all smiles of joy.
It is a timely decision because after the success of the Under -20 Africa Cup of Nations, spiced by Zambia winning the title for the first time, the momentum remains in gear and positions the country to host even bigger tournaments such as the senior Africa Cup of Nations.
Hosting provides experience and has a commercial imperative such as increased business for the hospitality industry, transport and other sectors.
Activities in these sectors are particularly very high as teams, officials and supporters from the region descend on our country.
As was the case with the Total Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations, new talent was identified that has since been infused into the senior team.
Similarly, soccer pundits expect the COSAFA tournament to unearth new talent.
The nation expects to see more in the likes of Patson Daka, Enock Mwepu, Fashion Sakala and Justin Shonga to emerge from the tournament.
The forthcoming tournament comes just at the right time when FAZ needs to re-stock the under-20 national team.
This naturally points to FAZ elevating the under-17 national team, which recently won the men’s COSAFA Cup in Mauritius.
This squad was believed to be too old for the under-17 category and therefore promoting them to the under-20 will not be misplaced.
Lameck Banda and Martin Njobvu, who had a brilliant tournament in Mauritius, cannot wait to showcase their scoring skills at the under-20 level.
Coach Mumamba Numba should also use the upcoming tournament to bring on board other players he may not have had time to assess before the July tournament in Mauritius.
Numba should have enough time to start identifying players for the Niger Total Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations in 2019.
The Niger Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers begin next year.
But that said, there are unresolved issues from the Africa Cup of Nations in 2017; the issue of allowances for stewards, security personnel and others who served the country diligently during the under-20 tournament remain unresolved to date.
Most people who were hired by the match-organising committee still have sad memories of having toiled for nothing.
It is a pity that seven months down the line, hundreds of thousands of people who toiled during the Africa Cup are yet to be paid.
Therefore, for many people, the COSAFA tournament will only ignite those sad memories and this may cause some unnecessary anxiety as those owed may use the occasion to press for their dues. Such embarrassments are not needed.
Temporary employment was created and provided for by hosting the tournament which cushioned the pressing needs of those engaged, but leaving them unpaid for almost half a year now is cruel.
Who is supposed to settle the allowances: FAZ, CAF or the Ministry of Sport? and when?
FAZ has set the pace of hosting tournaments successfully and the country will be expecting more from the local soccer-governing body.
However, hosting such events is only sustainable if FAZ can liaise with various provincial administrations and sell them the idea of taking charge of hosting within their provinces.
Ever wondered how and why countries like Algeria, Nigeria and South Africa recently hosted their FIFA World Cup qualifying series in non-traditional venues – especially their capital cities?
Take for example, the Copperbelt region, which has the much-appreciated Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in the provincial capital of Ndola, can constitute a team to handle logistics of matches to be played there.
The team with full participation of various stakeholders would consider amongst other aspects the teams’ accommodation and transport, security and advertising.
Several costs can be handled by the business community in the province as part of their corporate social responsibility driven by the pride of being associated with such an event.