Editor's Comment

Under-20: Our renewed hope for Zambian football

THE Under-20 national team on Wednesday sent waves of excitement across the nation after thumping Mali 6 goals to 1 in the ongoing Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations.
The splendid performance exhibited by the young lads during the game against Mali deserves commendation, especially that they did not only secure a slot in the semi-finals of the tournament but also qualified for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup.
It is indeed inspiring that having played two games so far in the tournament, the team managed to secure victory in both, thereby earning a slot in the forthcoming FIFA Under-20 World Cup to be held in South Korea in May.
The achievement by the under-20 national team is not only exciting but brings renewed hope for Zambian soccer whose standards have over the past five years slumped to unprecedented low levels.
Shortly after Zambia bagged the Africa Cup of Nations gold medal in 2012, soccer standards started going down to the discontentment of many stakeholders.
As a result, the national soccer team was consecutively eliminated from the Africa Cup of Nations tournament in the group stage in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
And last year the national team failed to qualify for the just ended Nations cup that was hosted in Gabon.
In the continued slump of soccer standards, the Zambia national soccer team was painfully booted out of the COSAFA Castle Cup at quarter-final stage for two consecutive years in 2015 and 2016.
Given such a depressing picture of our soccer standards in the past years, the performance of the under-20 national team therefore brings hope that Zambian football can still thrive again.
The under-20 team should therefore realise that the eyes of millions of Zambian soccer fans are now on them.
The young lads should consequently work to ensure they sustain the same top-notch performance for the rest of the tournament.
The players should also guard against being overtaken by the excitement of the achievement but should be sober and mature and focus on equipping themselves for the challenges ahead.
While qualifying for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup is good, the boys should remember that this is just but a step towards the major achievement.
The players should psych their minds to focus on the final prize, which is winning the FIFA Under-20 World Cup. Qualifying for the tournament alone is not enough.
Ghana won the FIFA Under-20 World Cup which was hosted in Egypt in 2009.
Given the splendid performance the young team has put up in the ongoing tournament so far, we believe with adequate preparation and discipline the young lads can do mother Zambia proud.
The official draws for the FIFA Under-20 event are scheduled for May 11 and, until then, it is not known how formidable the teams Zambia will be grouped with are.
For now, the role of the coach and the technical staff is to prepare the lads adequate enough to be able to face any opponent, whether Spain or Brazil.
There is need to expose the team to more competitive leagues in Europe if their capacity is to be enhanced.
To the young players, if they desire long successful careers in football, discipline is a non-negotiable prerequisite.
They need to maintain a high level of discipline and guard against alcohol and substance abuse as well as engaging in immoral activities. These are deadly vices that have involuntarily retired great players and relegated them to the dustbin of football history.
It is our hope that young talented players in the likes of Fashion Sakala and many others will be nurtured and eventually incorporated in the main national team to bring back the lost glory to Zambian football.

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