Soccer Review with STEPHEN PHIRI
HOW many times am I going to write these epilogues on our teams’ failure to qualify for the most prestigious platforms in world football – World Cups?
The other week, I was bemoaning our failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup when our most prized football team – Chipolopolo – were pushed off the route to Russia by marauding Nigeria.
And it was not the first time; we haven’t qualified to the World Cup proper apart from age-restricted tournaments where our performances have been so-so.
But I thought the latest failure by the girls’ under-17 national team was something of an indictment on our football; something that should set the big guys at Football House searching for answers. This problem, by the way, cannot be resolved by the Football Association of Zambia alone, we need everyone to be involved.
Government should offer a solid and clear policy direction on football development so that we get back to the days gone-by; days which everyone with grey hair talks about fondly and proudly.
These are days when schools football was a permanent fixture on each school, zone, district, province and national calendar. The Ministry of Education played a critical role then.
It was easy for clubs to tap into such talent. You must have heard that North-Western Province was Green Buffaloes’ hunting ground for players while the likes of Mufulira Wanderers went to Luapula.
Results were immediate. Is this rocket science? Why can’t competitive football be established in schools and communities around the country?
In this case and, I guess in the spirit of gender inclusiveness and equality, even girls’ football should be promoted in equal measure as boys’.
If that were the case, Zambia would have whacked Botswana and qualified for Uruguay where the Under-17 World Cup will be held.
Zambians are gifted – and we should thank God for that. There is no way Botswana would have stood in the path of our girls had we done the basic. We lost the return leg 4-0 despite winning 5-2 at home and that was it. I looked at the excuse proffered by the coach for failing to qualify and I could not help it but laugh my lungs out. Totally lame.
In the absence of a broader development programme, FAZ should do the basics of setting up girls’ leagues around the country. We cannot rely on girls’ social football to qualify for the World Cup, no.
I know the girls have qualified before but we must admit that it was just some stroke of luck which will not repeat itself. The gods won’t be crazy any more. We must plan to raise the standards of football in the country.
It’s painful to embrace failure, pretending that all is well in our beautiful game. Together we can.