GAME ON! with CHAPADONGO LUNGU
THERE was a joke at a bar the other day on the need to exclude whoever was arranging the national soccer teamâ€™s travel to Cape Verde from Zambiaâ€™s golden jubilee celebrations.
Reason is that if such a one was allowed, Zambia would only celebrate the jubilee two years late!
Call it bar talk but I think the moral of the discussion is that the travel arrangements could have been made in a better way, particularly that football is a game that respects time.
That, though, is no excuse for losing to hitherto soccer minnows Cape Verde, who have swiftly gatecrashed the party and are now dining and wining with greats such as Cameroon. If the messy travel arrangements were the reason for the defeat, then the Chipolopolo would have taken Mozambique to the cleaners because they only travelled for a maximum of five minutes from Savoy Hotel to Levy Mwanawasa Stadium.
The main reason for Zambiaâ€™s reverse start in the race to Morocco is that coach Honour Janza is sticking to players whose performance is over the hill, hoping that the glory days of Herve Renard would rub off the Chipolopolo.
The other reason is that players lacked inspiration from the technical bench, which seemed devoid of ideas as Cape Verde dominated and deservedly took the three points in that 2-1 victory. And I am told Janza believes Rainford Kalabaâ€™s goal should have stood. Well, from where I was watching the match, Rainford, though by far the best player for Zambia, was clearly offside.Â Janza may have to review the video of the game, just in case my view is blured.
Janza needs to share his philosophy and vision with us. Take South Africa coach Ephraim â€œShakesâ€ Mashaba, for instance, he has metamorphosed the team, bringing in fresh legs and targeting competitions beyond 2015. There is no room for Bernard Parker, Simphiwe Tshabalala, Surprise Moriri, Katlego Mphela, Thulani Serero and a cast of others who would ordinarily make the team.
Bafana Bafana may have a challenge now but their future is certainly assured, at least in as far as their vision is concerned.
The same can be said about Cameroon, who have pruned the old-guard to inject pace and, more importantly, prepare for the future.
Janza must know that majority of his players made the team that won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2012, which may have capped their ambitions. As far as they are concerned, they have achieved whatever there is to.
Such players – and he knows them much as everyone does – must be excluded from the team and warm-blooded guys called up. He must do so immediately or Zambia will be nowhere near the Morocco Africa Cup of Nations come 2015. Wasnâ€™t the coach-cum-FAZ-technical-director warned against turning the squad into a rehabilitation centre?
How can players who do not make the grade in the starting line-ups in the South African and Democratic Republic of Congo leagues be good enough to play for the Chipolopolo? Indeed, how can players struggling for a place on the bench in Europe don national colours?
Is it just lack of trust in the Zambian league? I think so.
Janza must demonstrate that he is capable of coaching the Chipolopolo. He is the boss of all coaches in Zambia; he is the boss and he must show that indeed he is. It is common knowledge that he is on a yellow card right now. A loss against Niger next month would change the colour of the card. But that is nobodyâ€™s wish; itâ€™s just the name of the game.
I am also of the view that Janza must be given a hand by one of the good-performing coaches in our league. I am talking about Tenant Chilumba, Hector Chilombo or Aggrey Chiyangi. The choice he makes may be the difference between success and failure.
It is unthinkable, in fact taboo, for Zambia to fail to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations. For Zambia, qualifying is no longer an achievement, it is a norm. We must all be hopeful, though, that Morocco will be an obvious destination.
Permutations are that Zambia will have seven points after the next round of two matches while Cape Verde will be on 12. That is based on the wild assumption that Zambia will collect six points against Niger, and Mozambique will donate another six to Cape Verde.
The last round is likely to see Zambia get a point against Mozambique and another against Cape Verde to end the campaign with nine points, or thereabout, to qualify for Morocco. Perhaps thatâ€™s just my wish.
But when one looks at the overall performance of teams from southern Africa, a picture of inferiority forms. There are seven teams from the Cosafa region â€“ Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia. From a possible 42 points, these teams have 11 points only. There is no team from southern Africa leading any of the seven groups. All group leaders are from West Africa but for Algeria. That is an indication about where the football is – West Africa.
The rest, including Zambia, are pretenders.
GAME ON! with CHAPADONGO LUNGU