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Let’s revive football in schools

KAMBILIMA

Analysis: TIMOTHY KAMBILIMA
I REMEMBER when I was growing up in the mining town of Chililabombwe, football was taken very seriously in primary and secondary schools.
It was normal and routine to see people from all walks of life converging at various primary schools to watch the beautiful game of soccer that was exhibited by grade five, six and seven pupils.
We had pupils like Samuel Chanda, Mita Chafu, Simon Mwansa, Eston Mulenga, Manfred Chabinga and many others, who later on went to play for Konkola Blades Football Club.
It was a deliberate policy by all the schools to take sports, in general, and football, in particular, seriously. Imagine, just missing to watch your school team playing at home attracted a penalty on a Monday. We would live up to be counted or names written, because of that, we were compelled to watch our teams play.
It was because of the same, very few pupils engaged in mischief during the weekend because we were pre-occupied. Apart from that, school acted as a reservoir for the clubs in the district.
The situation was the same throughout Zambia. Those who were there up to the late 1990’s would agree with me that football was highly regarded in primary and secondary schools. It was given the place it deserved.
But today, it has died a natural death as we do not see weekend fixtures like we had in the past. At secondary school level, sports teachers are only active in the second term owing to the Coca Cola school tournament qualifiers and after that, they go to sleep.
During the Coca Cola tournaments, believe me you, not all players featured were school going, some were school leavers who were playing for small clubs.
In those days, we had another tournament, the School Boy International that used to involve Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Every schoolboy player wanted to be in this tournament. This motivated more pupils to work hard on the pitch knowing very well that they will play for the Zambia school national team.
The onus is on Football Association of Zambia to work together with education officials to see how football can be revamped in primary and secondary schools. We need to have a political will to go back to the good old days of having a league structure where football was played every weekend.
Leaders at every level in the community should be in the forefront of such tournaments.  There is a lot of talent at the community level, which must be nurtured. These are the players who should go up the ladder and end up playing for international teams. Nurturing players at this level will also help the country to have a reservoir of players.
Local businessmen, councillors and members of Parliament can play vital roles in revamping football in our schools. If we all put our heads together, the failing football standards in our local league can once again go back to the old good days.
The author is a Luanshya-based Historian and social commentator.

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