IT IS a rarity that a column can be reduced into a gratitude note.
This yearâ€™s Barclays Cup final was arguably the most entertaining 1-0 matches I have ever watched in over three decades eye-witnessing both local and international football.
The match between Zesco United and Zanaco oozed class. Seasoned soccer administrator Simataa Simataa remarked that the goalkeepers were probably the best players on the park. The two managed, miraculously, to keep the scoreline to a solitary strike.
From my commentary count alongside Patrick Nyangulu, Ivo Mumba Lengwe and Maria Banda-Hamoonga for the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) Radio 2, I had 18 corners; nine for each side. That was a highly captivating match with stacks of goal-mouth action like cash banked in a Barclays account.
Itâ€™s a pity few souls saw it in flesh at the Heroes Stadium in Lusaka.
The stadium had an A-list of attendees. The father of football in Zambia, His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu, was in the house accompanied by Sports Minister Moses Mawere.
His predecessor Vincent Mwale, the Local Government Minister, received cheers from those in the arena when his face flashed across the gigantic stadium screen.
There were even louder cheers for President Lunguâ€™s daughter Tasila when spotted on the screen.
The lovely lady, who is Lusakaâ€™s freshest councillor, smiled and let out a wave which sent the sparse but vocal crowd into a frenzy.
Football House had its president Andrew Kamanga and the chief executive officer Ponga Liwewe in the forefront.
I envisioned the Barclays Bank top brass led by board chairman Jacob Sikazwe and managing director Saviour Chibiya purring with contentment.
Given that the match was carried live on both radio 2 and television coupled with some inclement weather, the crowd was fair.
No complaints on the football. It was box-office stuff. At half-time, the match was barren but the two teams left the field to a standing ovation.
I remembered watching memorable finals in the â€œmuseumâ€ Independence Stadium.
It was like the 1990 African Club Champions Cup final between Nkana and JS Kabylie which the Algerians won 5-4 on penalties after Mordon Malitoli missed his spot kick or the 1991 Mandela Cup final between Power Dynamos and Nigeriaâ€™s BCC Lions.
Power, beaten 3-2 in the first leg in Nigeria, fell to Webby Chilufyaâ€™s own goal to trail 2-4 on aggregate. In a great come-back, the Kitwe giants led by Briton Jim Bone prevailed 5-4.
Power scored through Robert Watyakeni, a Richard â€œSharpâ€ Sikanyika corner and current Zambia boss Wedson Nyirenda to lift the trophy.
The goose bumps I felt in the stadium last Saturday were akin to those experienced in the two finals.
Nyangulu, on Radio 2, gave his â€˜Tumbukalisedâ€™ English narration of the cast fashionably:
â€œZesco United have Jacob Banda in goal -international, Simon Silwimba – international, Ben Adama Bahn-professional, Kondwani Mtonga-international. David Owino Odhiambo-professional, Misheck Chaila – international, Anthony Agay Akumu-professional, Clatous Chota Chama-international, Idriss Mbombo-professional, John Chingâ€™andu-international, Jesse Jackson Were- professional.â€
â€œProfessionalâ€ was loosely a reference to the players from outside Zambia and â€œinternationalâ€ was for the players that represent Chipolopolo.
This is just an aside to educate my â€œilliterateâ€ traditional distant cousins from Box 1 Kanele, Lundazi, usually a little low on football terminology.
These days all players in the top flight are professionals. They play football for a living. Prior to the defunct Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM) making footballers full-time paid employees in the 1990s, it was not uncommon to see players with a day job and only report for football training after work.
That clarified, the Zanaco first e11 had 10 current and former internationals in goal custodian Toaster Nsabata, Aaron Katebe, Fackson Kapumbu, George Chilufya, Ziyo Tembo, Boyd Musonda (under-20 international) Isaac Chansa, Charles Zulu, Rodrick Kabwe and Ghanaian Kwame Attram.
The odd one out was Aubrey Funga, who missed a myriad of chances for Numba Mumambaâ€™s side who are Super Division champions-elect.
On this occasion, Numba wished he had a striker like the Congolese striker Mbombo, who clinically struck the winner in the 71st minute to land Zesco their record fifth trophy.
That was the difference between getting the crown and K150,000 more and still searching for the maiden Barclays Cup.
Tenant Chembo, who was George Lwandaminaâ€™s number 2 until the final, perhaps bizarrely, bagged the coach of the tournament gong.
Not that many minded.
The match, despite being played under cloud cover with the pitch drenched due to the heavy November night downpour, lived to the Barclays by â€œOur Passion, Our Fireâ€ billing.
Every football loving Zambian must support Barclays Bank for sponsoring the only cup competition in the country for a decade.
Indeed, like Chibiya wrote in the official match brochure, â€œBarclays Bank Zambia Plc believes that when we share, we grow; and when we grow, we all prosper.â€
Thank you Barclays for sharing in the growth of Zambian football.
President Lungu summed it up expertly, â€œIt was a nice [exciting Your Excellency] game, the standards of football have improved.â€
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