Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO
WHEN a senior government official protested the transfer of Green Eagles Football Club from Choma to Kabwe several years ago, most people probably thought he
Several years down the line, Eagles’ presence in Choma is making a lot of sense to the populace there.
Eagles’ significance in Choma, now the administrative capital of Southern Province, ranges from providing entertainment to being the reason why the district is breathing economically.
Every fortnight, soccer fans in Monze, Sinazongwe, Kalomo, Zimba and Choma itself look forward to watching top-flight soccer at Independence Stadium.
And when Eagles win, like they did when they beat Nkana 2-0 last Saturday, the whole farming town goes agog.
People in the district, including visitors, have a reason to dance the night away, starting at the Zambia National Service mess near the stadium to other watering holes in the district.
Other beneficiaries of Eagles’ continued presence in Choma include lodges where the team camps as well as other hospitality outlets where visiting teams, officials, fans, media and others spend their nights.
Because the town is now used to hosting big teams, quality lodges are coming up in Choma to meet the demand or tastes of clubs coming from outside the province.
When Eagles host big clubs such as Power Dynamos, Nkana, Zesco United, Green Buffaloes and Red Arrows, among others, a lot of lodges benefit.
It is hard to find bed space in Choma on a day a big club is in town.
In the evening, you are sure that all popular nightspots will be filled to capacity – thanks to the Zambia National Service (ZNS) for maintaining Eagles in Choma.
It is not just Choma which benefits from the economic boom or soccer fans’ spending power.
Even other towns along the way benefit, too.
Soccer fans and officials spend all the way from Choma as they buy drinks, food, fish and beef at Batoka sub-centre, Monze and Mazabuka.
Other products procured include vegetables and fruits, including charcoal.
That is how empowering Eagles are in Southern Province.
Eagles are not only popular in Choma but also in Monze where some fans wait for the ZNS Marcopolo bus carrying supporters from Lusaka layby to chance a lift.
As the ZNS vehicles drive by along the Mazabuka – Livingstone road, fans along the road chant positives to Eagles.
And when the team wins, the fans wave at ZNS vehicles with glee as they greet the passengers to appreciate the victory.
The goodwill Eagles continue to enjoy is the reason the team has to continue winning to keep the positive spirit among soccer fans in Southern Province.
When the team’s performance began declining under Manfred Chabinga, it is the fans who began remonstrating and management only acceded to their demands in accepting his letter of exit.
When Chabinga travelled to Choma last week, he was scolded by a section of fans after the team’s win over his new club, Nkana.
They wondered how the same club which had started losing under his reign had started beating big guns like Nkana.
ZNS command must invest in its own coaches to stem the mass recruitment of mentors outside its establishment.
It has enough material within its ranks to reduce dependence on coaches who may not bring the desired value to the club.
ZNS has the likes of Hopson Kalengo, the current third assistant (if not fourth following the arrival of Alex Namazaba), Kelvin Mwaanga (who has transformed FAZ Zone Four Young Green Eagles), Musonda Mwape (coaching Builders Brigade) and Kebby Hachipuka, who is with Division One Luamfumu in Luapula.
Much as ZNS wants the best for the club, they should always stick with their own because they understand the system.
In future, if they are to bring a coach from outside, it has to be one of the trainer-of-trainers whose role beyond coaching Eagles, should be to build the capacity of in-house coaches with a view of Kalengo, Hachipuka, Musonda and Mwaanga collectively taking over the running of the team.
While the team is showing signs of resurgence, levels of indiscipline in which the team is collecting many yellow cards is not good for a military club, especially that some of the cards can be avoided.
Even coaches and ball boys getting sent off is another sign of a breakdown of discipline.
Whether the team is leading or not, ball boys have to play their role throughout the 90 minutes.
Command should send a qualified referee or retired to instil laws of the game and align them to military discipline.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.