AFTER the Chipolopolo ‘srecord breaking victories over Algeria that firmly brought Zambia back in the hunt for a place in the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup finals, attention returned to skirmishes in the Super Division.
By those two bitter to swallow defeats Algeria are not going to Russia.
The North Africans were present for the last two editions in South Africa and Brazil.
Now Zambia face Nigeria on October 7 in a crunch clash with all to play for. There is also the added incentive of aiming to break a 20-year record of failing to clip the wings of the Super Eagles.
Today’s column should have been a victory verse. I could have composed lyrics of a praise singing song for Wedson Nyirenda and his gallant lads.
This column could also easily have been a dirge; lamenting the sponsorship stand-off between Vodafone and MTN over Woodlands Stadium.
The conflict has rendered City of Lusaka’s home unusable at the direction of the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) due to contractual obligations.
There is also Power Dynamos pulling out of the Barclays Cup after labelling the country’s only club competition ‘’commercially not viable.’’
These boardroom issues are simmering. But some national team players stole the limelight from pitch matters exciting fans after Chipolopolo did the improbable against the dreaded Desert Foxes.
I was privileged to see eight teams in the top flight this weekend while analysing live matches for SuperSport.
When Nyirenda named Ernest ‘Altezza’ Mbewe in Chipolopolo’s starting 11 against the Desert Foxes in Constantine, eyebrows were raised. Who is this ‘Altezza’? Where has he come from? Is he a car? Which road is the ‘Altezza’ driven on?
Mbewe provided the answers to those who were at National Heroes Stadium and millions following on SuperSport.
In a 3-2 thriller against Zesco United, Mbewe scored the opening goal after a fast flowing move that involved his fellow Zambia international Augustine Mulenga and striker Souleyman Lokwa.
Mulenga, the subject of ridicule after missing clear-cut chances in Constantine, had redemption time with a well taken penalty for the Bankers past Jacob Banda.
The former Nkwazi attacking midfielder showed nerves of steel in taking the penalty after ballooning a few efforts in Algeria.
Some fans talked about Mulenga perfecting his shooting skills.
Mulenga answered the critics with a well taken penalty that had the experienced Banda going the wrong way.
Ziyo Tembo, despite some crucial tackles for the league leaders thwarting the dangerous Jesse Were and David Kasirye was unfortunate two, penalties in the match.
The first was a clear handball as the ball hit his arms. The second probably should not have been given by the referee Rodrick Ng’andu.
Tembo’s hand was crossed to his chest and he tried to avoid contact with the ball.
But Were was not going to let the gift go to waste. He took both penalties with aplomb.
On the balance of play, Zesco would not have complained going home with a point. However, Ben Adama Bahn conceded an own goal which was Zanaco’s clincher.
Mumamba Numba’s side occupy top spot on goal difference.
Impressive Bilton Musonda’s Green Buffaloes also sit on 50 points in second place after seeing off an exciting but blunt City of Lusaka 1-0 on Sunday at Nkoloma Stadium.
Jack Chirwa netted from the spot to secure the win. It was the fringe international’s second spot kick in successive weeks.
The consolation for Zlatko Krmpotic was that another Nyirenda lad Simon Silwimba was named man-of-the-match.
The mascular right back is now a settled defender. Memory cannot scan back to the time Silwimba played for Zanaco and Zambia under-23 national team as an anchorman.
Krmpotic, after this display, albeit a loss, should feel more hopeful for ‘Zega Mambo’ ahead of Friday’s Confederation Cup quarter-final against SuperSport United in South Africa.
Before this feast of football, a late Chris Mugalu double ensured a dramatic haul of full points for ‘Elite’ Lusaka Dynamos after falling behind to a Copperbelt University graduate Brian Chewe’s goal against Konkola Blades.
The Congolese, this season’s leading league scorer, took his tally to 15.
Finally, Napsa Stars returned to winning ways after sidelining Tenant Chilumba for four weeks.
Interim coach Linos Makwaza jumped for joy as Napsa edged stubborn Forest Rangers 4-3.
Makwaza must thank Chitiya Mususu, who on his first start since returning from an unsuccessful career hunting expedition in Europe, scored a brace and was named man-of-the-match.
Spare a thought for coach Perry Mutapa who despite seeing his side score three times including a double from Kobe Chipeta went home empty handed.
The performance of national team players or those near it, over the weekend gives belief that Nigeria will not have it easy in Uyo.