SYLVESTER CHISHIMBA, Lusaka
THE boys who starred at the South Korea World Cup early this year are raring to go following their call-up to the senior national team for the 2018 Russia World Cup qualifier against Algeria.
Striker Fashion Sakala and midfielder Enock Mwepu are ready to repay the confidence coach Wedson Nyirenda has shown in them.
They are motivated and believe they can add value to the senior national team, which has struggled in recent years.
Sakala was Zambia’s top scorer at the World Cup with four goals while Mwepu, an attacking midfielder, scored two goals that instantly propelled him into the limelight.
Mwepu clinched a deal with Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg while Sakala, now a household name in Zambia, features for Spartak 2 Moscow in Russia.
Nyirenda has drafted seven under-20 players in his 32-man squad regrouping in Lusaka on Sunday and dropped skipper Rainford Kalaba and striker Collins Mbesuma.
Zambia will host Algeria on September 2 at National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka with the return leg after three days in Constantine.
It was at Heroes Stadium where Sakala and Mwepu shot to stardom when they led Zambia to a maiden Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations title in March this year.
The two, alongside Patson Daka, Emmanuel Banda and Edward Chilufya – also in the senior national team – scored a total of 13 goals en route to the pinnacle of African football at under-20 level.
“This is a good sign for me. This motivates me to work extra hard in order to progress in my career. I will also work hard to motivate my teammates. I am very humbled for receiving my first call-up to the national team. I thank God for this opportunity,” Sakala said from Moscow yesterday.
Sakala has already netted four times in the Russian First National League.
“It is a good call-up for me as well as for my under-20 colleagues. For the coach [Nyirenda] to pick me, then he believes in me. He knows that I can perfectly suit in his philosophy and help the team win in the back-to-back encounter,” said Mwepu, who campaigns for Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg.
And Kalaba declined to comment on his omission from the Chipolopolo.
Kalaba, of Democratic Republic of Congo side TP Mazembe, is suspended for the first leg but is eligible for the return leg.
Meanwhile, under-20 national team coach Beston Chambeshi is humbled to be elevated to the Chipolopolo technical bench, ALEX NJOVU reports.
Chambeshi has been appointed assistant coach.
He said in an interview in Kitwe yesterday that he is equal to the task.
Chambeshi commended the Football Association of Zambia for giving him an opportunity to work with the Chipolopolo.
“I am humbled. I cannot say no to the appointment. I know the coach [Wedson Nyirenda], his assistants Aggrey Chiyangi and Dabid Chilufya, as well as other members of the technical bench. We are friends,” the former Nkana and Zambia winger said.
Chambeshi, who is also Nkana coach, is confident he will contribute to the Chipolopolo’s success.