2016: Highly eventful year in Zambian football

THE crowning of Zanaco defender Ziyo Tembo as 2016 FAZ/MTN Super Division player-of-the-year on December 20 signified the close of what has been another highly eventful year in Zambian football.
Let me state from the outset that the purpose of this piece is not to open wounds that may have already healed, rather it is to appreciate what year it has been football-wise.
From the boardroom, football field and even in the stands, a lot has been going on in the football circles that may take us a day or two to catch up on the events of the year in the beautiful game locally.
As early as January, mainstream and social media was awash with probably one of the greatest transfer sagas of our time when two bitter rivals Power Dynamos and Nkana were involved in a tag of war for the services of international defender Christopher Munthali.
The player eventually ended up playing for Nkana from his parent club Power after serving a two months ban when he was found wanting for not honouring his contractual obligations to Power.
We did not have to wait for long before one of the biggest stories of the year came our way. many would probably have described this as a shocker of the year, very few would be brave enough to say they saw it coming.
You guessed right, the election of Andrew Kamanga as Football Association Zambia (FAZ) president back in March is a bet few would have been willing to put their money on considering that Kamanga stood against celebrated soccer icon and then incumbent Kalusha Bwalya.
In a tightly contested tussle, the energy expert-cum-football administrator managed to collect enough votes to unseat Kalusha who was seeking a third mandate at the helm of the country’s football Plot One.
Before I depart from the never-ending politics of Zambian football, eight months after their election, FAZ vice-president Richard Kazala and committee member Blackwell Siwale were suspended by Kamanga for alleged gross misconduct.
The duo will have to wait for March next year as FAZ councillors will be expected to decide the gentlemen’s fate during the association’s annual general meeting.
Enough of football politics, on to the pitch now.
Coach George Lwandamina endured a mixed year. While things were relatively going on well at his beloved Zesco United, the same could not be said about his time as Chipolopolo interim coach.
With Lwandamina at the helm of the 2012 African kings, the country failed for qualify to Africa’s biggest sporting event for the first time since 2008 something that did not go down too well with supporters.
In the 2016 African Nations Championship (CHAN), soft-spoken Lwandamina could only go as far as the quarter-finals after the Chipolopolo succumbed to a 5-4 penalty shootout loss to Guinea following a goalless 120 minutes in Rubavu, Rwanda.
Lwandamina was later to be replaced by Wedson Nyirenda to allow the former to concentrate on his club duties with Zesco United, who he guided to the semifinals of the CAF champions league.
He however seemed to have done enough to attract the interest of Tanzanian club giants Young Africans where he was appointed coach after quitting Zesco last month.
The women’s national team also recorded a low as they failed to make the cut for the 2016 Cameroon African Cup Women’s Championship under the guidance of former Red Arrows coach Albert Kachinga.
I dare not mention the under-17 national team which was disqualified from the Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) in Mauritius on account of age cheating, a scandal of our times.
However, not all was gloomy on the international scene as the under-20 national team finally put a smile on supporters with the COSAFA trophy recently.
Referee Janny Sikazwe officiating at the FIFA club World Cup final involving Spanish giants Real Madrid and Kashima Antlers of Japan is another moment to savour.
Other events that caught my eye this year included coach Manfred Chabinga ditching legendary cup fighters Mufulira Wanderers on the eve of their Super Division encounter against Lusaka Tigers.
The year wrap will never be complete without the mention of Mufulira Blackpool who failed to register a win in 34 Super Division games and Nchanga Rangers who were briefly demoted for attempting to bribe a match official only for the verdict to be overturned upon appeal.
Zambia National Commercial Bank-sponsored side Zanaco will be remembered as kings of Zambian football in 2016 after Mumamba Numba guided them to their seventh league title.
The 38-year-old Zanaco and under-17 trainer joins the elite list of coaches who have won the league before both as a player and coach.
Record title-holders Nkana were left licking their wounds this season after they failed to bag any silverware despite enjoying a good start to the season.
This was much to the disappointment of the club’s main sponsors Mopani Copper Mines.
The story was the same with Nkana’s cross town rivals Power Dynamos whose only major achievement this season was not losing to Nkana over two legs.
What a year it has been, with its own ups and downs. the least an unrepentant supporter of Zambian football like me can do is hope for the best next year.
With Zambia hosting the 2017 African Youth Championship in February, winning the trophy will bring joy on the faces of many Zambians.
The author is a Zambia Daily Mail sports correspondent.

Facebook Feed