Soccer Review with STEPHEN PHIRI
TODAY, Zambians will celebrate the country’s 54th independence anniversary.
Over the years, the country has produced football players that have made a name in Africa and the world at large.
Some of them have been honoured locally while others have not been recognised.
For instance, striker Godfrey ‘Ucar’ Chitalu, arguably Zambia’s best player of all time, has been honoured by his former club – Kabwe Warriors
Chitalu scored 107 goals for Warriors in 1972.
Warriors have named their stadium after Chitalu while a road has been named after him in Nyumba Yanga residential area in Lusaka.
What about at national level?
Going forward, we can have a stand at either Lusaka’s National Heroes Stadium or Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola named after players that have brought honour and glory to the country.
Ryan Giggs, Sir Alex Ferguson and David Beckham, among others, have stands named after them at Old Trafford, the home of English giants Manchester United.
Ivorian striker Didier Drogba, who featured for Chelsea, has a stand named after him at Stamford Bridge in London.
The Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) and the Ministry of Sport could confer and recognise players that made a difference during their heyday.
Chitalu and the 1974 Africa Cup of Nations squad can be honoured.
It was the first time Zambia were qualifying for the continental showpiece and Emmanuel Mwape, Edwin Mbaso, Ackim Musenge, Dick Chama, skipper Dickson Makwaza, Willie Phiri, Moses Simwala, Boniface Simutowe, Bernard Chanda, Chitalu and Brightwell Sinyangwe defied odds to finish runners-up to the then Zaire [now Democratic Republic of Congo].
Zambia lost 2-0 in a replay after holding the Zaireans to a 2-2 draw in the first match.
The 1988 Olympics squad tutored by Samuel ‘Zoom’ Ndhlovu and captained by Ashious Melu also deserve the honour for reaching the quarter-finals in Seoul, South Korea.
Kalusha Bwalya, the only player from southern African to have won the African best footballer award, also deserves to be honoured by the country.
A stadium can be named after Kalusha, who represented the country at international level for over two decades.
The 1994 Africa Cup of Nations team that went all the way to finish second to Nigeria equally need to be honoured.
The achievement in Tunisia came 11 months after the Gabon air crash, which claimed the crème de la crème of Zambian football.
The 2012 squad drilled by Frenchman Herve Renard and captained by Christopher Katongo won the country a maiden Africa Cup title.
The victory came 38 years after Zambia’s maiden appearance at the continental showpiece.
Time is ripe for the football heroes to be given the recognition they deserve.
As a country we need to honour deserving footballers when they are alive, not when they die.
The draws for the Ghana Africa Cup of Nations have been conducted and Zambia are in a tough group comprising champions Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya.
On paper Nigeria and South Africa are favourites to advance to the semi-finals but with adequate preparations, the She-polopolo could shock the two giants.
The technical bench led by Bruce Mwape should use the remaining 24 days to seal all the loopholes so that our envoys go to Ghana as title contenders.
Happy birthday Zambia and let’s interact on email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Let’s honour footballers
Soccer Review with STEPHEN PHIRI