Columnists

Dissecting Zambia’s failure to qualify for 2019 AfCON

BENEDICT Tembo.

Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO
WHEN our Under-20 national team performed wonders by winning the Total African Nations Cup and qualifying for the FIFA Youth Cup, the nation basked in glory.
Patson Daka and company gave us hope for the future. We were convinced that this golden generation of Under-20 players were going to take us places.
What with some of them being outstanding during the latter stages of the World Cup qualifiers in which the Chipolopolo demolished dreaded Algeria home and away to revive chances of qualifying for Russia 2018, which dream ended in Uyo, Nigeria.
At that stage, Zambia had just played one African Nations Cup qualifier against Mozambique and lost 0-1 at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola.
Given the showing against Algeria (home and away) and against the Super Eagles in Uyo, the feeling was great and soccer fans were sure that come the Africa Cup qualifiers after the World Cup tournament, Zambia was going to be on fire.
With the tide seemingly in the Chipolopolo’s favour, FAZ decided to change the guard at the senior national team by sending coach Wedson Nyirenda to school in Spain. Nyirenda declined and instead trekked to Baroka Swallows in the South African Premier Soccer League.
In his absence, FAZ had already found a replacement in Sven Ludwig Vandenbroeck, who was Cameroon’s assistant manager from 2016 to 2018.
Sven was given the task of qualifying the Chipolopolo to the 2019 Africa cup of nations.
“That is the prime objective, we are so mindful of the other milestones,” FAZ president Andrew Kamanga said on July 10 after engaging the Belgian.
This was a copy and paste kind of arrangement.
Just because the Kalusha Bwalya administration hired Herve Renard, an assistant coach from the Black Stars of Ghana and was a huge success did not mean that even Sven was going to make it.
That was simplistic thinking. It’s like taking another French coach and hoping him to be the new Herve Renard.
But Renard and Sven are two different individuals with varying experience.
FAZ did not do a due diligence on Sven and his weaknesses have been glaring to say the least, starting from player selection (calling players for camp) by leaving out performers such as Zesco United starman Lazarous Kambole to making line-ups and procrastinising when making substitutions.
FAZ made things worse for Sven by giving him Kampamba Chintu, a green horn for an assistant coach.
Chintu is a likeable individual who is very good at motivating players.
Chintu performs the duo role of physical trainer and choir leader but being the right hand man to Sven was a tall order given his lack of experience at that level.
FAZ needed to assign a very senior coach to Sven but were blind to reality.
Why FAZ ignored Beston Chambeshi who was in-charge of the Under-20 and instead left Sven with almost no assistant is what has led us to where the Chipolopolo is.
FAZ insisted it could not impose an assistant on Sven. But how did FAZ expect to pick his own assistants because he never knew any of the senior coaches?
The lack of foresight and hindsight resulted in the Maputo debacle which has left Zambia rooted at the bottom of Group K behind Namibia, Guinea Bissau and Mozambique.
This is one of the easiest group Zambia has ever had.
Because Zambia cannot qualify for Cameroon 2019 means Kamanga has scored a brace by failing to take the Chipolopolo to an African Nations Cup for the second time in a row, first for the 2017 fiesta and now 2019 edition.
Yet, Zambia had been a regular qualifier for the Africa Cup, starting in 1974 in Cairo, Egypt where the KK11 then finished second to the Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire).
It is indeed a shame that Zambia can now be associated with failing qualify to Africa’s ultimate football tournament for two years running.
Apart from failing to make the 2017 and 2019 finals, the Chipolopolo failed to make it to the Africa Cup in 1976, 1980, 1984 and 2004.
The back-to-back failure have cast a blight on our country’s football credentials especially unfancied nations such as Madagascar and Mauritius, among others are making it to the expanded tournament.
The loss to Mozambique is very depressing. It is something that FAZ could have avoided right from the start.
There was no need to change coaches mid-stream the competition.
Nyirenda should have been allowed to finish his stint.
Failure to go to Cameroon is now reflecting on Kamanga’s management.
FAZ should as a matter of urgency reconstitute the Chipolopolo technical and give the incoming coach clear targets to qualify Zambia to the Qatar World Cup in 2022.
The author is editorials editor at the Zambia Daily Mail.

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