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National teams fire blanks

IT has been a disappointing year because the Chipolopolo were eliminated in the first round at the 2015 Equatorial Guinea Africa Cup of Nations. The under-17, under-20 and under-23 national teams followed suit with group stage ejections at their respective continental tournaments, VICTOR KUMWENDA reports.
Although qualifying for the Africa Cup has become more like a birth right for Zambia, the Chipolopolo have struggled at the finals since winning the maiden title in 2012 in Gabon.
Zambia, who were in Group B, drew 1-1 with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), lost 2-1 to Tunisia before settling for a goalless stalemate with Cape Verde to bow out in the preliminary round for the second successive time.
The Chipolopolo finished bottom of the group with two points, three behind leaders Tunisia while runners-up DRC and third-placed Cape Verde were tied on three points.
Cape Verde were also eliminated at the end of the first round.
Five months down the line, national team coach Honour Janza was sacked and was replaced by Zesco United boss George Lwandamina.
Janza was shown the door a day after Zambia beat Ethiopia 1-0 in an international friendly in Addis Ababa.
Lwandamina started on a slow note with Zambia battling to a goalless draw with Guinea Bissau in the 2017 Gabon Africa Cup of Nations qualifying race.
Zambia bounced back with a 2-1 away win over Kenya in Nairobi ,moving to four points at par with Congo Brazzaville who have a better goal aggregate.
Zambia face Congo Brazzaville in round three.
The Chipolopolo also qualified for the 2016 Rwanda African Nations Championship (CHAN) finals and have been drawn in Group D, alongside Mali, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
The tournament will get underway on January 17.
Zambia beat Namibia 6-5 on penalties after the teams tied 3-3 on aggregate and bashed Mozambique 4-1 over two legs to qualifying for the Rwanda finals.
The Chipolopolo also qualified for the 2018 Russia World Cup group stage after bashing Sudan 3-0 on aggregate.
The disastrous outing to the Senegal African Under-23 Championship is still haunting.
Having beaten Botswana 3-1 on aggregate and Ivory Coast 4-3 on penalties after a goalless draw over two legs, Zambians were confident of ending the 27-year absence from the football tournament at the Olympic Games.
Zambia last competed at the Olympic football competition in 1988 in Seoul, South Korea, where the Kalusha Bwalya inspired team defied odds to reach the quarter-finals.
The junior Chipolopolo tutored by Fighton Simukonda were turned into whipping boys in Group A losing 2-1 to Tunisia, 3-2 to South Africa and 1-0 to hosts Senegal.
The axe has since fallen on Simukonda, who has been relieved of his duties.
The under-23 also failed to qualify for the 2015 All-Africa Games in Congo Brazzaville.
The Hector Chilombo drilled side were equally disappointing, exiting the Africa Youth Championship in Senegal in the first round.
Zambia finished without a point in Group B which had Ghana, Mali and South Africa.
The junior Chipolopolo lost 1-0 to Mali, 2-1 to Ghana and 5-2 to rivals South Africa to miss out on qualification for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand.
Chilombo has since been replaced with Chris Kaunda.
The under-17 national team despite securing a maiden qualification for the 2015 Niger Africa Junior Championship failed to rise to the occasion.
Zambia, who were in Group B alongside Guinea, Nigeria and Niger finished third with three points.
The team started the campaign with a 1-0 defeat to Guinea, beat hosts Niger 2-1 but lost 3-1 to Nigeria to exit the tournament in the preliminary round.
Zambia’s dream of qualifying for the 2015 Congo Brazzaville All-Africa Games was shattered after losing 6-5 on aggregate to Tanzania in the final round.
It was sweet revenge for Tanzania, who lost 3-2 on aggregate to Zambia in the 2014 Namibia Africa Women Championship qualifying race.
The Osward Mutapa-tutored under-20 national team were booted out of the 2016 Papua New Guinea Women’s World Cup qualifiers after losing 3-2 on aggregate to South Africa.
Zambia held South Africa to a goalless draw at home but lost 3-2 in the return leg in Johannesburg.
It was another bad year for Zambian envoys in the Confederation of African Football (CAF) inter-club competitions.
Zesco United competed in the African Champions League, while Power Dynamos did duty in the Confederation Cup.
Both teams were eliminated in the first round.
Zesco lost 5-4 on penalties to AS Kaloum of Guinea after tying 2-2 on aggregate.
Zesco beat Swazi side Mbabane Swallows 2-1 on aggregate in the preliminary round.
Power beat Sudanese side Al Khartoum 2-1 over two legs in the preliminary round but lost 4-3 over two legs to AC Mounana of Gabon in the first round.
The Tenant Chilumba-led outfit were stunned 4-0 in the first leg in Libreville but won 3-0 in Kitwe.
It was again a tough season with Zesco United, Zanaco and Power Dynamos all in contention for the trophy going into the season closing Week 28 fixtures.
Zesco won their fifth Super Division title with two games to spare.
The Ndola outfit clinched their fifth title in eight years following a 1-1 draw with Forest Rangers in a Week 28 match at Dola Hill Ground in Ndola.
Zesco finished with 67 points, four better than runners-up Zanaco.
National Assembly and Konkola Blades were relegated to Division One.
Kabwe Warriors, Lusaka Tigers and Mufulira Blackpool bounced back to the Super Division while North-Western Province will be represented in the elite league by Lumwana Radiants.
The Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) held its reconvened Annual General Meeting on October 10 at Government Complex in Lusaka, where the restructuring of the Premier League was enacted into law.
Prior to the reconvened AGM, controversy surrounded the agenda with some councillors saying the restructuring motion was defeated at the March 28 AGM in Kabwe and could not be discussed.
Others argued that the agenda was a new item and was different from the Northern Province Football Association (NOPFA) proposal, which was to restructure Division One North to avoid play-offs.
The restructured Premier League will comprise of the Super Division, which has been expanded to 18 teams from the current 16 while Division One will have four zones.
FAZ executive committee member Happy Munkondya said restructuring the league would raise the levels of football.
Munkondya said the new league format would address key components of football development and that the new system would widen the platform for clubs.

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