THERE is no greater honour than the gallantry of representing one’s nation in sports.
Monday night, I saw former Zambia women’s national team captain Kabange Mupopo storm the 400 metres finals of the on-going World Championship in London with a seasonal best time of 50.60 seconds.
Earlier, sprinter Sydney Siame set a national record at 200 metres with a time of 20.29 seconds.
While Mupopo finished second in her race to grab one of the two automatic places in the final Siame put day light between himself the second man in the race Kyle Greaux from Trinidad and Tobago who clocked 20.48 seconds.
The two Zambians brought a smile on my face.
On Saturday, if I was a tortoise, I would have shrunk in my shell with shame at a football match.
The events of the closing stages at Woodlands Stadium where Zambia were held to a barren draw by visiting Ethiopia in an international friendly were shameful to say the least.
A packed beyond capacity Woodlands Stadium “oohed” and “aaahed” as the local Chipolopolo played some direct football in the first half but producing little end product.
Perhaps, Wedson Nyirenda rued the absence of Brian Mwila who has moved to South Africa with Rustenburg based Platinum Stars.
The former Green Buffaloes was the top marksman for the local Zambia side before being snapped up by the Royal Bafokeng Stadium outfit after an impressive return of six goals in seven matches in the copper of the Chipolopolo.
The forward partnership of newly promoted Inspector Justin Shonga and Power Dynamos forward Martin Phiri did not click last Saturday.
The second period saw the Wally Antelopes boss Ashalawi Bekele bring on a bale of up to six substitutes who changed the tide of the match.
While Zambia continued to look dangerous but with little penetrative thrust, the Ethiopians started enjoying a flowing passing game.
Then came the despicable act from sections of the home fans.
Before that, there was a beautiful rendition of “Zambia bikamo mwela” and “Chipolopolo iyee” started by fans to the left of the eastern goal of the refurbished arena.
No sooner had that died down than the boo boys reared their ugly heads.
With about 10 minutes left to play, the Zambia national team’s every touch was booed while the visitors were cheered.
What was incomprehensible was the fact that some fans appeared no longer interested in seeing a late goal from Zambia because even clearances by Ethiopia were bring cheered wildly when the home side threatened.
The last time I saw similar displeasure at a stadium in Zambia during a friendly international was in the match against Gabon at Heroes Stadium under Honour Janza in 2015.
Then the crowd chanted, “We want change! We want change!”
It was not clear if the chants were directed at Janza to make substitutes, or change of the coach himself or even change of the Football Association of Zambia president then Kalusha Bwalya who was in attendance.
Whistles are mundane music when fans call for substitutes. I heard some boos directed at Nyirenda recently ring out at Heroes Stadium when Clatous Chama was taken off after 38 minutes in Zambia’s 3-0 victory over Swaziland.
But never in my life, have I experienced the national team being booed.
I have seen it happen in European stadia where a club is booed off at half-time or full time after a poor performance. Arsene Wenger and his Arsenal got booed a few times at the Emirates Stadium last season.
In Manchester, David Moyes had a plane fly over a match with the words: “Moyes Out”, as some disgruntled Red Devils faithful wanted to force the then Manchester United manager out of the Old Trafford hot seat in 2014.
When your fellow countrymen are doing battle it must please you to lift their spirits when the chips are down than desperately trying to dress them down. It’s a bad culture and must not be repeated.
Of course, Nyirenda has to improve the team ahead of this weekend’s Kenya 2018 African Nations Championship qualifier away at South Africa.
Fans may have been upset by the omission of Chama and Fwayo Tembo or even the team’s failure to find the back of the net but booing the national team does not help to raise the Zambian flag high.
This is why I was happy with Mupopo and Siame in the athletics championship in London as the duo put this country on the world map.
For Mupopo, particularly, I was so pleased because at some point when playing for the Zambia national women’s national football team she had to eat kapenta and beans while in camp, wash her own jersey and receive a K50 as transport after the Africa Cup of Nations for Women in Namibia in 2014.