U-17 qualification good sign

THERE are issues of poor diet for the women’s national soccer team preparing for the Africa Women Championship in Namibia and then netballers’ cold reception despite qualifying for the 2015 Australia World Championship.
The Football Association of Zambia and Ministry of Youth and Sport got quite some flak, deservingly, over the two issues. Did I read about fans’ strongman – literally – Peter Makembo refusing to let sleeping dogs lie when he told off Minister of Youth and Sport Chishimba Kambwili? It’s called Dutch courage.
The peak of last week’s events was Zambia’s qualification for the Under-17 African Championship to be held in Niger. Chris Kaunda’s boys delivered a first when they qualified for the teenagers’ outing, which will be the country’s inaugural participation.
Kaunda and his boys have proved they have been a worthy investment; one on which the country can pin its hopes as the chase for reclaiming the Africa Cup of Nations gathers pace, albeit stutteringly.
These, and the under-20, are the boys Zambia needs to build for that prospective Africa Cup of Nations title in 2019 and 2021. While we should all be optimists, ideally, believing that the current crop can repeat the 2012 feat is asking for too much from our golden generation.
I do not even understand why coach Honour Janza has so much faith in them but, perhaps, it is the predicament he is in – he must deliver results and at the same time build a team for the future.
It even becomes more urgent when authorities fancy their knowledge on technical issues, seeing some serious shortcomings that need addressing.
Professionally and administratively, Kambwili’s sentiments can easily be dismissed but hey, everyone knows the saying going “He who pays the piper calls the tune,” no matter how bad it may be.
That is why it is safer to believe in Hector Chilombo’s under-20 and Kaunda’s under-17 because, apart from giving us great promise, they are off Kambwili’s spotlight.
Zambia’s journey to the 2012 Africa Cup success did not start, as they say, from without. It was because of FAZ’s good strategic planning over a period of about 10 years, starting from around 2001 when the likes of Rainford Kalaba, Clifford Mulenga, Felix Katongo, Davis Nkausu and a few others were in Simataa Simataa’s under-17 national team. Two years later, they graduated into the under-20 as a block when the likes of Christopher Katongo, Isaac Chansa, Collins Mbesuma and Jacob Mulenga were under the tutelage of Peter Kaumba.
Kalusha Bwalya, then Zambia mentor, incorporated all these into his team that was to become the mainstay of the squad to date. That history spanned 10 years before Zambia won anything major.
That is why it may take a bit of time for the country to win anything anytime soon. It may have to take an incubation period of at least five years.
Consider Nigeria and Ghana, for instance, they are doing well today because they invested hugely in the under-17 and under-20 squads. For them, they went as far as winning the FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
As we speak, they have tens and tens of players plying their trade in Europe. These are former teenage internationals.
FAZ, therefore, deserves commendation for drawing a programme that gives hope. The under-17’s qualification for the youth championship is one of the most positive developments in the game in the last 20 years or so.
When I see Patson Daka in action, I see the future of the game. This boy is an amazing talent. And there are many others in Kaunda’s team who can play the game at the highest level in the next few years.
In fact, why has Janza ignored Patson? The boy needs to be in the team, not necessarily to play but to get motivation when he interacts with Stopilla Sunzu, Nathan Sinkala and Kennedy Mweene.
The Messis, Ronaldos, Neymars, Theo Walcotts and all those exceptional talents were in their national teams at 17. Just a thought, anyway.
I called for readers’ vote for the best 11 players in the last 50 years. I received quite a number which I will be publishing along the way before compiling the final.
Boniface Locha, an avid reader of the column, has the following line-up.
1.Efford Chabala – (Best goalkeeper ever, leadership skills)
2.   Edwin Mbaso – (Best right- back, exceptional skills)
3.Ackim Musenge – (Best left back, exercised maturity on the pitch)
4. Dick Chama – (Leadership and maturity on and off the field)
5.Dickson Makwaza – (Best- captain, ever towering central defender with exceptional defensive skills)
6. Willie Phiri – (Midfield Dynamo, exceptional defensive skills with overlaps)
7. Alex Chola – (Master dribbler and sharp intelligent attacking midfielder)
8.  Charles Musonda – (The best midfielder the country has ever produced. The first African player to play in the quarter-finals of the Champions League – Anderlecht vs Sampdoria in 1988)
9. Godfrey ‘Ucar’ Chitalu – (The best player Zambia has ever produced; the running and dribbling skills very exceptional)
10.  Kalusha Bwalya – (African Player of the year 1988, the first player to have won the Africa player of the year award south of the equator)
11. Peter Kaumba  – (The best number 11 in Africa voted at the 1982 Africa Cup of Nations in Libya with astonishing runs on the left wing).

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