Soccer Review with STEPHEN PHIRI
THE die is cast. The fifth edition of the Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) will kick off this Saturday in Morocco.
Zambia coach Wedson Nyirenda has selected 23 players to do battle at the tournament ending on February 4.
The tournament is coming against the backdrop of Zambia having done well last year.
The under-20 national team did the country proud by winning the Africa Cup of Nations and qualifying for the World Youth Cup in South Korea, where the boys reached the quarter-finals.
The Chipolopolo also reached the final of the regional Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) Championship losing 3-1 to Zimbabwe.
In the World Cup qualifiers, the Chipolopolo caused an upset by beating highly rated Algeria at home and away to emerge favourites, only to lose to Nigeria in Uyo on October 7, 2017 and hand the hosts the Russia 2018 ticket.
For that fairy-tale, the CHAN is an opportunity for the Chipolopolo to continue raising the country’s soccer brand in Morocco.
Besides, this will be a perfect platform for players who are hoping to play professional football.
There will be a lot of scouts in Morocco looking for talent and Nyirenda’s lads have to showcase their skills to be picked out.
I am aware Nyirenda has picked what he considers the best for the tournament.
However, I am of the view that Nkana striker Ronald Kampamba should have been part of the squad.
Kampamba is a natural goal-poacher and that could have added depth to the strike force.
Kampamba, who had a professional stint in Egypt and Belgium, scored eight goals in the Super Division last season and Nkana finished third on the log behind champions Zesco United and second-placed Zanaco.
With the absence of forwards Justin Shonga and Brian Mwila, who have trekked to South Africa to turn up for Orlando Pirates and Platinum Stars, respectively, Kampamba, popularly known as Sate Sate, was the option for goals.
Shonga and Mwila were instrumental in the qualification for the CHAN finals and their departure left a gap in the strike force, which is led by Alex Ng’onga of Power Dynamos.
Anyway, Nyirenda has selected players he feels can rise to the occasion and all the country can do is to wish them success at the finals in Morocco.
Nyirenda has Toaster Nsabata, Simon Silwimba, Fackson Kapumbu, Isaac Shamujompa, skipper ZiyoTembo, Kondwani Mtonga, Ernest Mbewe, Augustine Mulenga, Mike Katiba and Martin Phiri, who were all involved in the CHAN qualifying race.
Silwimba, Kapumbu, Tembo, Mtonga and Mulenga were regulars in the Chipolopolo side that finished second to Nigeria in the 2018 Russia World Cup qualifying race.
Mulenga was crowned 2017 footballer-of-the-year and if he displays the same form that saw Zanaco finish runners-up in the Super Division and reach the group stage in the CAF Champions League, then Zambians can dream of another continental trophy after the Africa Cup of Nations.
Victory at the CHAN will spur the Chipolopolo to qualify for the 2019 Cameroon Africa Cup of Nations.
Having lost 1-0 to Mozambique in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Ndola last June, success in Morocco will motivate the players to overturn the table when they face Namibia in Windhoek in March this year.
There is nothing impossible and where there is a will, there is a way, so goes the English adage.