Football Sport

Patson Daka is coming of age

Bola Biz
WITH drums beating in the stands, exactly two years ago, a certain 16-year-old with a lime green arm band strapped on his left biceps on a bright orange number 9 shirt, picked up the ball, inside enemy territory, and raced past a few defenders before unleashing an unstoppable scorching shot that nestled in the net as if it was a foetus in the womb.
This gem of a goal came after 26 minutes of action in this ultimate Niger 2015 Africa Junior Championship Under-17 qualifier played on a Friday in Lusaka.
The side on the receiving end was sorry Uganda.
A sizeable crowd at Nkoloma Stadium that had been rising as the tall striker surged goalwards stood on its feet in raptures of delight. Patson ‘Papa’ Daka had just given Zambia the lead.
The Chris Kaunda tutored lads won the match 2-0 with substitute Gift Sikaonga heading home the insurance goal on the hour mark with virtually his first bite of the ball. Sikaonga had replaced Pumulo Sianga a minute earlier.
But it was the Daka strike that left Ugandans tongues and tails wagging.
The finesse of the finish was not lost on the East Africans who cried blue murder. Uganda suggested the teenager was too precocious to be under-17 in age.
‘’You can see that the captain (of Zambia) is not under-17. How can he (Patson Daka) be playing in the Super Division if he is young?’’ Uganda boss Matia Lule moaned.
“’Maybe the MRI scans in Zambia are different?”
Daka was in his first loan season at Super Division Nchanga Rangers under late Fighton Simukonda.
The Kafue Celtic product, discovered three years earlier during the Airtel Rising Stars tournament as a 13-year-old, was being fashioned into a feared forward.
Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) executive committee member Lee Kawanu, who owns Division One outfit Kafue Celtic, took the lad under his care at the Kafue club.
And within two years, Daka was a terror in the second tier of Zambian football. This prompted Rangers to take the boy to Chingola a year later.
Kawanu was also the officer in charge of all youth football organisation in FAZ then.
After the Uganda accusations, Kawanu rubbished the claims of age-cheating and confidently charged: “They can complain all they want. They can do MRI scans on all our players if they want. We have beaten them here and we are going to beat them in Kampala.”
True to Kawanu’s words, a fired-up Daka bagged a brace as Zambia stunned Uganda 2-1 at a packed beyond-apacity Nakivubo Stadium a fortnight later to progress to the finals.
The sore Ugandans petitioned to the Confederations of African Football (CAF) alleging Zambia cheated over Daka, Changwe Kalale and Enock ‘Computer’ Mwepu.
Four years earlier Uganda had been expelled from the same competition after booting Zambia out 3-1 on aggregate.
The Ugandans had been found guilty of age-cheating for fielding an overaged Ivan Ntege.
So the East Africans probably just engaged in gymnastics of the game of the pot calling the kettle black. But the protest was dismissed and down the drain went the US$2,000 paid to CAF as petition fee.
Daka went on to play for the Zambia under-17, under-20, under-23 and the Chipolopolo.
He started the first 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Guinea Bissau which ended in a barren draw in Ndola. The lad is talented but this was too much football for a young boy.
He experienced a goal drought at club level. Harsh criticism from the unforgiving and ever-demanding Chipolopolo faithful followed.
As part of the Celtic executive, I raised concern with Kawanu over the amount of football Daka had played over a short period of time.
Kawanu was of a similar view. He explained that as club chairman he was constrained to stop national team coaches from selecting Daka for fear of being cited for interference.
Before joining Power Dynamos from Rangers last season, Daka went to Spain and France after impressing for the junior national teams but could not be signed due to his tender age.
After a slow start at Arthur Davies Stadium, the 18-year-old has now struck ten times this campaign. The latest is a double on Saturday against Green Buffaloes side in a 4-1 blitz.
The week before, the teen sensation’s headed goal won one of the biggest derbies in African football, the Kopala derby, as Power Dynamos defeated Nkana 1-0.
His meteoric rise in Ndeke has coincided with the arrival of UK-trained tutor Dan Kabwe at Power.
Kabwe is not a mere ‘Kopala’ copper smelter. He is a coach polishing that rough stone into an admirable finished article.
Daka is now coming of age. The drum of his Super Division dozen has sounded.

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