Football Sport

Thirsty while standing in Walter

SOCCER REVIEW with VICTOR KUMWENDA
IT IS an honour to play for the national team of any country. I believe this is what has motivated Nkana striker Walter Bwalya to pledge his allegiance to Zambia.
But it seems his commitment to feature for the Chipolopolo has raised issues bordering on his seemingly dual nationality, thus casting doubt on his eligibility to don the national team jersey.
The Football Association of Zambia has not come out to state their position on the matter and is cautious because of past events. Is the Nkana striker eligible to feature for the Chipolopolo? This is the answer soccer fans want from Football House.
In the recent past, players like Mathews ‘Papa’ Kamwashi and Felix Muamba purported to be Zambians and played for the Chipolopolo, only to go back to Congo and play for that country’s national team at the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations in Mali.
The country also witnessed some embarrassing moment when DR Congo (then Zaire) claimed one of the Zambian players at the 1974 Africa Cup finals in Egypt.
Bwalya last month committed his international future to his father’s country of birth (Zambia).
He was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo to a Congolese mother but a Zambian father.
It is understood the player, who scored 24 goals last season, has made it clear he is eligible to feature for Zambia. But where is the problem?
Bwalya has also revealed that authorities from DR Congo are clamouring for him to feature for that country’s national team.
Yes, Bwalya is eligible to play for Zambia because he has not featured for DR Congo at senior national level and that is what FIFA regulations and rules on eligibility state.
But in theory, he is also eligible to play for DR Congo.
The rules state that if a player qualifies to play for more than one country, his choice is not binding until he appears in a competitive international match.
Teenagers are not expected to make binding decisions about their future. That’s why playing for one country up to under-21 level before pledging allegiance to another in full internationals is acceptable.
Bwalya has not played for Congo at both junior and senior levels.
Now it is time to clear the misunderstandings on Bwalya’s nationality and eligibility to turn out for the Chipolopolo. I believe, like interim Chipolopolo coach Wedson Nyirenda said, it is a matter which is supposed to be dealt with administratively.
There is a debate on whether Bwalya has documentation to enable him to feature for the Chipolopolo. He has stated on several occasions that he holds a green national registration card (NRC).
There is, therefore, need for his club Nkana and former team Forest Rangers to assist Football House and Immigration authorities with information to ascertain his nationality so that the matter is put to rest once and for all.
But from my understanding, what is important is that Bwalya has pledged loyalty to Zambia.
I think Bwalya has done what is expected of him and it is up to Football House to make a decision on his eligibility.
With Collins Mbesuma not growing younger, Walter would be a perfect fit.
Zambia should learn from France, Belgium and other European countries where players of African origin feature for national teams.
This is where I rest my case.
Let’s talk football on victorkumwenda@daily-mail.co.zm, victorkumwenda@yahoo.co.uk

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