Soccer Review with STEPHEN PHIRI
WHERE did we go wrong? This was the question fans were asking themselves after Zambia lost 1-0 to Nigeria in Saturday’s 2018 Russia World Cup qualifier at Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo.
Most of the people pointed their fingers at Botswana referee Joshua Bondo.
The 39-year-old wrongly ruled offside Augustine Mulenga’s goal in the first-half.
Others likened Bondo to Gabonese referee Jean Diramba.
Diramba denied Zambia a ticket to the 1994 United States of America World Cup with his biased officiating during a crucial match against Morocco in Casablanca.
Others poured scorn on Alex Ng’onga for failing to score several opportunities that were created.
As if that was not enough, seven people damaged roofing sheets at Ng’onga’s mother Charity Sakanya’s house in Chimwemwe township in Kitwe.
The seven have since been arrested and my directive to law enforcement officers is to deal with the culprits to the maximum to instil fear to would-be offenders.
The reason Zambia bowed out of the World Cup race is losing 2-1 to Nigeria on October 9, 2016.
Arsenal midfielder Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho of Leicester City contributed a goal apiece in Ndola while Collins Mbesuma got Zambia’s consolation.
Super-substitute Iwobi stunned Zambia once more firing past goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene in the 72nd minute.
Truth be told – Zambia were not favourites from Group B to qualify for the World Cup.
Nigeria were favourites after winning the first three games and drawing 1-1 with Cameroon in Yaounde last month.
For Zambia, the dream was revived after two wins over Algeria last month – 3-1 in Lusaka and 1-0 in Constantine.
The players and the technical bench, led by Wedson Nyirenda, should walk with their heads high because they showed that the Chipolopolo are capable of competing with the best on the continent.
The Chipolopolo took on a star-studded Nigerian side punch for punch.
Nyirenda should be left in the job so that he could groom a side that could win the 2018 African Nations Championship, qualify for the 2019 Cameroon Africa Cup of Nations and possibly lift the trophy.
With the abundant talent in the country, Nyirenda and company should be able to assemble a team that will qualify for the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
Zambians have waited for a long time for World Cup qualification and in the process minnows Angola and Togo among others featured at the showpiece in Germany in 2006.
This is not the time to cry over spilt milk but to pick up the pieces and forge forward.
The Qatar qualifiers will get under way in 2019 and time is ripe to hit the ground running.
Let us forget Uyo and move on.
After all, there is life and full of it ahead of us.