Football

Crucial weekend for Zambian football

Bola Biz
ZAMBIAN football is back under the microscope this weekend.

The significance of this weekend does not require rocket scientists to unravel in a ‘Eureka’ moment.
This Saturday, Zambia takes on Botswana at Royal Bafokeng in Rustenburg, South Africa, in the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) Castle Cup quarter-finals.
At National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka, Super Division champions Zanaco face Al Ahly of Egypt with victory guaranteeing Mumamba Numba’s side a place in the last eight of the lucrative CAF Champions League.
However, the Bankers can still progress with any result in the unlikely event of Wydad Athletic Club of Morocco losing to point-less Coton Sport of Cameroon.
Instead of living dangerously, Zanaco must finish off the Egyptians with a clear win and render the final match of the group away to Wydad on July 7 a mere formality.
With two matches left to play, Zanaco occupy top spot with 10 points followed by Al Ahly with seven, Wydad six and Coton Sport nothing.
This penultimate group match assumes great significance. Fans worth their Zambian salt must troop to National Heroes Stadium and be the twelfth man for Zanaco.
This match is about defending the sanctity and integrity of Zambian football against the Egyptians.
The home matches for Zanaco have been extremely poorly attended. In the first match at National Heroes Stadium against Young Africans, the Tanzanians, with their big banner that I wrote about on this column reading, : “This is Dar-es Salaam,’’ nearly outnumbered Zambians in the stands.
Against Wydad and Coton Sport, the sparse crowds were the order of both matches.
I have watched matches in the same competition involving Zimbabwean club Caps United and fans swarm their home matches like bees on honey.
The rankings for Zambia to have extra slots for continental club competitions shall improve remarkably should, as expected, Zanaco make the last eight.
A Zanaco win therefore should be a case for intercession in the closet and vocal ‘vuvuzela’ support on Saturday.
On Friday, Zesco United attempts to reconnect power to their quarter-finals passage after being badly load shedded by three unanswered goals in Angola. Being beaten by a club named Recreativo Libolo was beyond embarrassing.
It was a below the belt blow that boss Zlatko Krmpotic must find a panacea for against another Egyptian side Smouha in Alexandria.
Zesco are still in the Confederation Cup with a shout as the five time Zambian champions in third position only trail leaders Al Hilal Obuyyid on seven points by a point.
Libolo are second on with six points owing to a better goal difference. Krmpotic is hanging on to the Zesco job by the skin of his teeth and needs an outright win against Smouha to stay his own execution.
Murmurs over Wedson Nyirenda’s suitability to remain at the helm of the Chipolopolo top job are getting louder.
The COSAFA Cup presents the perfect opportunity for Nyirenda to get monkeys off his back. Nyirenda needs to get Zambia the COSAFA record back as the country with most titles.
Currently, the Chipolopolo shares the honour of winning the regional four times with Zimbabwe.
Nyirenda has come in for some flak after a forgettable 2019 Cameroon Africa Cup of Nations qualifier 1-0 loss to Mozambique in Ndola.
The fact that the Kaiser Chiefs and Power Dynamos legend was technical advisor to the Under-20 coach Beston Chambeshi when Zambia landed its first ever Under-20 Africa Cup crown (and also the COSAFA Under-20 title in December 2016) is like a local tradition tale lost in translation.
Results at senior level are a matter of life and death.
Nyirenda needs to convince fans and his pay masters that he has the right credentials to dig Chipolopolo out of the hole that sees Zambia currently wallowing below the likes of Swaziland and Namibia in FIFA world rankings.
Nyirenda has left out the Power Dynamos duo Fwayo Tembo and Billy Mutale who mysteriously missed the friendly match against South Africa that a depleted Chipolopolo won 2-1 against Englishman Stuart Baxter’s side.
He has kept faith in the bulk of that squad in the absence of Zesco and Zanaco stars who are involved in continental competitions.
But some fans are scratching their heads on Clatous Chama’s continued snub.
The Lusaka Dynamos captain has been the fulcrum of the machine sitting top of the Super Division.
Given that his elder brother, the Green Buffaloes skipper Adrian has been selected, does Clatous need to produce his National Registration Card to prove he is a Zambian to be selected?
Otherwise, the Anti-Corruption Commission needs to get involved in probing foreigners obtaining Zambian documents illegally because this is a crucial weekend for Zambian football that needs all its eligible and capable citizens putting heads and legs together for success.

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