GAME ON! with BENEDICT TEMBO
THIS year’s Super Division battle for the title and relegation was perhaps the most exciting in recent years.
This year’s title was won on the last day with a point difference by Zesco United who had to overcome a spirited Mufulira Wanderers who fought mightily albeit in vain to save their Super Division status.
And the 2017 season had eight different leaders before Zesco snatched the title on match day 38.
And City of Lusaka’s 74 goals conceded is the worst defensive record since the Premier League was established in 1982. Previously, Nitrogen Stars (disbanded) held the record with 68 goals conceded during the 1992 term.
While Konkola Blades, City and Real Nakonde’s demotion has no impact in the country, it is the relegation of Wanderers which has attracted attention of the soccer fraternity.
There are several reasons for why Wanderers will always be the talking point when they either win or lose.
They are one of the country’s most successful clubs and happenings at Shinde Stadium have a bearing on Zambian soccer.
Why players and other stakeholders may blame the team for losing their last game against Zesco, the Shinde outfit’s fate was determined a long time ago.
Wesley Mutembo, the former Mufulira Wanderers Supporters Society national chairperson says the legendary side got it all wrong right from the beginning of the season.
“When we had a chance to rectify the problems created, we did not do so. Last season, we had a mass exodus of key players some of them whom we lost out on free transfers due to poorly crafted contracts. For those players that were sold, the obvious expectation was to see the club make capable replacements to fight for honours. But that did not happen,” Mutembo said.
He noted that when the season started, the team recorded humiliating results with the worst scoreline being the 6-1 loss to Zanaco.
“We also recorded one of the worst home losses in our history to an understrength City of Lusaka with a 4-1 scoreline. Many losses were recorded and eventually the Egyptian coach Ahmed Soliman was fired. In came Wilson Mwale and Justin Chinama as his assistant. The duo brought a bit of stability on the pitch especially in defence. We stopped leaking goals. However, scoring continued to be a problem,” Mutembo observed.
The problems were not only on the pitch but in administration as well.
As the season progressed, club owners Mopani Copper Mines replaced chairperson Kenward Chansa with Mike Milupi in a bid to streamline operations.
The core of the administration at Wanderers remained and is still in office.
Along the way, coach Mwale’s performance was brought under the spotlight and changes to the technical bench were made once again.
Mwale, one of the rolling stones yet to gather moss, was made technical director and Chinama, formerly of Green Buffaloes and Green Eagles was appointed head coach.
It was in the latter stages of the season that Wanderers begun to record some wins but it was rather left too late.
At round 38, Wanderers were only in a position where they had only one option to survive relegation: beat Zesco at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium.
It was a tall order against Zesco who needed to return to the African Champions League at all costs.
Wanderers’ undoing was losing rather cheaply to Nchanga Rangers and Nkana prior to facing Zesco.
As a result, the odds were against them and Zesco nailed them at Levy to go back to Division One after only three years to their return to the elite league.
Wanderers can bounce back in 2019 if the members of Parliament can still continue supporting the team the way they came in towards the end of the season.
The Super Division needs Wanderers.
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