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Soccer Review with STEPHEN PHIRI
I JOIN the sports fraternity in welcoming Minister of Youth, Sport and Child Development Emmanuel Mulenga, who replaces Moses Mawere, whose appointment was revoked last Friday by President Edgar Lungu.
As he discovered at the swearing-in-ceremony at State House on Monday, there is no time for honeymoon but needs to hit the ground running as soon as possible.
President Lungu is spot-on in directing Mulenga to call for an indaba to arrest the country’s declining football fortunes.
“The nation has been disappointed with the performance of our national team lately, especially their failure to reach the 2019 Africa Cup finals, when countries we consider minnows qualified, and some even reached as far as the quarter-finals,” the head of State said referring to Madagascar, who reached the quarter-finals before falling 3-0 to Tunisia.
“Therefore, the onus is on you, as the new Minister of Youth and Sport, to ensure that you turn our fortunes around. This you cannot do alone. You will need to tap into the knowledge of sports legends and fans to help you perform this mammoth task.”
Describing Zambia as a footballing nation whose football unites the country every time the national team or clubs succeed at international level, President Lungu urged Mulenga to work with the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) to turn things around.
Mulenga needs to put his foot down to ensure the problems affecting the Chipolopolo are given the attention they deserve.
The suggested indaba should bring together football stakeholders who will plot the way forward to ensure that Zambian soccer returns to its glory days of the 1970s and 1980s.
After all, where there is a will, there is a way and the ball is in the minister’s hand to act decisively.
Mulenga should involve football legends in finding the way forward.
Zambia has a number of legends who could help in finding solutions to the numerous problems that have besieged football.
Most of them have taken a back seat because they have been ignored over the years by football authorities.
Watching the 2017 Gabon and 2019 Egypt Africa Cup of Nations tournaments on television was painful and we should not allow such a situation to be associated with Zambia.
Qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations finals is Zambia’s birthright unless we want to set the standards low.
Mulenga should also ensure that the strained relationship between FAZ president Andrew Kamanga and his predecessor Kalusha Bwalya is a thing of the past.
It is not a secret that the bad blood between Kamanga and Kalusha has divided the football family.
There is need for Kamanga and Kalusha to reconcile for the betterment of the beautiful game.
I implore the sports fraternity to give Mulenga support so that together we conquer.
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