Football

Zesco lights up nation

Soccer Review with STEPHEN PHIRI
ZESCO United have done the country proud by qualifying for the CAF Champions League group stage.
Twenty-four hours before Zesco’s 2-1 win over Ivorian side Asec Mimosas, Zanaco, the other Champions League representatives lost 1-0 to minnows Mbabane Swallows of Swaziland to bow out 3-1 over two legs.
It was an embarrassing result by any imagination. The football pedigree of Swaziland is supposed to be inferior to that of Zambia, even on a bad day. Or so it should be.
Understandably, Nkana always had a mountain to climb to progress to the next round of the Confederation Cup after losing 3-0 away to CR Belouizdad of Algeria.
The 1-0 victory recorded by Nkana in the return fixture in Kitwe proved inadequate.
Nkana exited the competition 3-1 over two legs.
It was therefore left to Zesco to rise to the occasion.
Not everything was in Zesco’s favour having lost 1-0 to Asec in Ndola.
Few expected from Zesco the outcome that was subsequently recorded in the return match in Abidjan.
Zesco players and interim coach Tenant Chembo stood tall and saved Zambia’s face from embarrassment.
Chembo has been calling shots since last October when then coach Zlatko Krmpotic was suspended.
Perhaps it is time Zesco United confirmed him as head coach. He has proved that he is equal to the task.
Before the win in Abidjan, Zesco had not won in 10 matches on the continent with their victory being on April 9, 2016 when they edged Stade Malien of Mali in the second round of the CAF Champions League.
But rumours going round are that Zesco are courting their former coach George Lwandamina to be head coach.
It’s a wait and see situation on whether Chembo’s wish will be granted.
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The Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) should be commended for clinching the three-year lucrative Super Division and national team sponsorship deals worth US$4.5million with MTN Zambia.
All the 20 teams in the Super Division will receive K200,000 each as participation fee.
The mobile telecommunications company has increased sponsorship by US$1.5 million and also flexed the exclusive rights from the previous US$3 million deal that gave them explicit rights.
The Super Division winners will receive K500,000 from the previous K250,000.
This is how it should be and hats off to the Andrew Kamanga-led FAZ executive for involving Super Division outfits in the negotiations.
MTN chief executive officer Charles Molapisi said during the signing ceremony in Lusaka on Monday that his company is committed to developing the local game through its strategic partnership with FAZ.
On the other hand, Kamanga said the contract has left the window open for other companies to join the sponsorship although MTN will maintain its exclusive rights in the telecom business.
The improvement in the conditions of the contract should now translate into competitive football on the pitch.
Now, may the 2018 Super Division campaign get into gear.
sphiri@daily-mail.co.zm, phiristeve4@gmail.com

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