Football Sport

Rebuilding broken wars of Zambian football

Bola Biz
LAST WEEK, I covered a combination of factors that had crumbled the greatness of Zambian football.
The future looks bleak, but can be brightened. No tree was ever climbed from the branches unless in the animal kingdom or the fantasy world of the Spiderman.
Zambia’s elimination from the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations has brought our football to its knees.
But in Asia, there is an adage that says, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a step.’’
My personal confusion after Zambia 3-2 loss to Guinea Bissau is that the younger generation does not appear to play better than those who are in the evening of their careers.
The players who turned up on that fateful day were Collins Mbesuma, 32 years-old, and Christopher Katongo, 33-years-old with the goals.
Rainford Kalaba, 29-years-old looked fresher than Lubambo Musonda who is 21years-old.
Buchizya Mfune, I can bet, would have been by streets better than Boyd Mkandawire.
Mkandawire is 22 years-old while Mfune is 14 years his senior.
In the middle of the park, I was thinking in the holding role, the uninvited 32-year-old Kondwani Mtonga is more solid and consistent than 18-year-old Paul Katema who was at sea in Bissau.
At Super Division league leaders, Zanaco, Isaac Chansa at 32 years has more influence than 22-year-old Salulani Phiri in midfield. Kennedy Mweene at 31-years old still starts for country even when he warms the bench at his club. Now, where does the rebuilding begin from?
In the aftermath of the saddest moment in Zambia’s footballing history, a ‘’Phoenix’’ squad arose from the ashes of Gabon to emerge second to Nigeria in the continent losing a tightly contested 1994 final 2-1 having taken the lead through Elijah Litana.
The towering defending headed past Peter Rufai but the Super Eagles with captain and now late Stephen Keshi on the bench, came back with a brace from Emmanuel Amunike.
In that squad, which was rebuilt from nothing the oldest players were ‘’Gentile’ Kapambwe Mulenga and Gibby Mbasela at 31-years-old while captain Kalusha Bwalya was 30 years old.
About half of the 23-man squad, under the guidance of late Scotsman Ian Porterfield, were 25 years old or below.
These were Litana, Harrison ‘Wawa’ Chongo, Evans Sakala, 21-year-olds Joel Bwalya and Tenant Chilumba, Mordon Malitoli, Harrison Tembo, Happy ‘Bauchi’ Sichikolo, Zeddy Saileti and the youngest being 20-year-old Kingsley Musabula.
The others like Johnson Bwalya and the late James Phiri were 26-years-old. Then John Lungu, Kenneth Malitoli and Linos Makwaza were either 27-years old or just 28-years old.
Aggrey Chiyangi and goalkeeper Martin Mwamba were 29 years-old.
This team mixed youth and experience.
There was a lot of pace upfront in the two Bwalya brothers and the other unrelated Bwalya, Saileti and Chilumba.
At the back, the revelation was Litana who was later to be voted the best centre-back of the tournament alongside partner-in-crime late Chongo.
The 23-year-old Litana, an unknown package until now, came from Luanshya’s Roan United to help Zambia concede only two goals at Africa’s showpiece event. New goalkeeper James Phiri albeit missing the semi-final due to injury and replaced by Martin Mwamba in the 4-0 demolition of Mali, excelled too.
The Amunike strikes were the first the team conceded. And the two defenders were the only Zambian players picked in Africa’s finest eleven of the Tunisia tournament.
Most of the players in the squad had been in the league and were playing second or third or even fourth fiddle to the cream that was washed off the coast of Libreville. But when the nation called, they answered the call gallantly and made themselves folklore stuff heroes. Most of them were relatively young.
After the heartache of 2017, we need to look at our league for heroes as the nation rebuilds.
I am glad Andrew Kamanga’s Football Association of Zambia is looking overseas for a mentor.
In 1994, there was Roald Poulsen who passed the baton to Porterfield.
The expatriate is the way to go for Zambia. But that trainer must be one Zambian coaches can learn from. Not an apprentice-learn on the job one. The talent is there. The onus is on the players to show consistent form.
Chisamba Lungu has quit the national team, but at 25-years-old the Ural Oblast of the Russia Premier League captain should be among those the new Chipolopolo must be built around.
Granted, Lungu is aggrieved, but running to the media to vent frustrations is the last thing a star must do. There are channels, or should be channels, at Football House to air such grievances.
At the weekend, as I watched Power Dynamos versus Kabwe Warriors, my thoughts raced to the future. Can Fwayo Tembo re-invent himself to help the country? He is among veterans. Or is it time for the likes of Julius Situmbeko to step up?
Or can Godfrey Ngwenya lift his game to levels that he promised when unearthed as a young gem during the Airtel Rising Stars a couple of years back? Last year Zambia failed to make an impact at the Under-20 finals in Senegal. A few from that squad are now regulars at their clubs. Lawrence Mulenga is keeping the goal at Kabwe Warriors.
Egyptian Mohammed Fathy has been brave to use the 18-year-old. He also has trusted Ngwenya a lot with Nsofwa Mwansa.
Bilton Musonda has also used Geoffrey Silavwe in the Green Buffaloes goal. Boyd Mkandawire, despite staring for Zambia, has been a bench warmer at Napsa Stars. The story is similar for once promising Benedict Chepeshi at Red Arrows who is no longer picked for Chipolopolo. I have seen George Mandu at Red Arrows and Langson Mbewe at Kabwe Warriors used sparingly.
Spencer Sautu is sizzling at Green Eagles, but Kayawe Kapota is now a forgotten man at Nkana.
Patrick ‘Dude’ Ngoma trekked to Egypt and is back at Red Arrows, while Lubambo Musonda has stayed in Armenia.
Striker Saith Sakala returned from a short stint at Emmanuel Mbola and Evans Kangwa’s club in Israel; Hapoel Ra’anana to join Charles Zulu and Dave Daka at Zanaco and is now thriving under Mumamba Numba.
Larry Bwalya always impresses for Power Dynamos. The club coaches need to trust these young lads. To that group add Jacob Ngulube, a real livewire at Nkana Stadium, and Benson Sakala, a gem at Arthur Davies Stadium.
But for coaches to have faith in these talented young lads personal discipline is paramount.
The rebuilding of the broken walls of Zambia football greatness should begin from the bottom. Let us start organising academies on modern trends with the right equipment.
Let us register players at their real age and develop them as a unit while blending with the very best of the older-not old past their sell by date relics.
That step may be slow and painful but it is the starting point to the journey to success.
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