Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO
THAT Zesco United, one of the three remaining envoys in the Confederation of African Football inter-club competitions have qualified for the second round of the Champions League is part of the diversity of our football.Zesco battered JKU of Zanzibar 7-0 in Ndola on Wednesday to book their place in the first round. The two sides battled to a 0-0 draw in the first leg in Zanzibar.
Zanaco on the other have almost secured their passage to the first round following their emphatic 3-0 win over the Gambia Armed Forces in Lusaka and their task today in the return will be to defend their healthy lead.
Zanaco and Zesco will be joined in the continental voyage by Nkana, who were on bye in the preliminary round.
Nkana, Zanaco and Zesco will be in action on the weekend of March 6 and 7 as they battle opponents from Algeria, Swaziland and Cote D’Ivoire.
Nkana start the campaign away to CR Belouizda of Algeria on March 6 while Zesco will be at home to ASEC Mimosa with Zanaco being on the road to Mbabane Highlanders.
Green Buffaloes bade farewell to the Confederation Cup despite beating Al Masry 2-1 on Tuesday but the 4-0 bashing they received in Port Said in Egypt in the preliminary round, first leg was too much a burden because it translated into a 5-2 loss.
Buffaloes, who have run their race in Africa, can now focus on the league with a lot of hope.
Despite exiting early, Buffaloes deserve respect because they put in their best although it was not good enough.
Lack of experience at that level and the current league format, coupled by the army club’s decision to stick to the rule book of patriotism by not recruiting foreign players contributed to the early exit.
Buffaloes, who were last in Africa about 10 years ago and upon their return, were drawn against one of the best three teams in the Egyptian Premier League (EPL).
While the Zambian league has been on hiatus owing to its status of not being in tune with the European calendar, the Egyptian league has been up and running.
Al Masry, who are contesting the EPL title are as fit as a fiddle while Buffaloes started tracing their match fitness in Botswana where they were invited by Township Rollers.
Upon their return from Botswana where they played three games, winning two and drawing one, warmed up with City Circuit and Red Arrows who had nothing to play for.
As far as Bilton Musonda, the Buffaloes mentor was concerned, Tswana sides, Circuit and Arrows who were conducting trials, had given his side enough exposure to face Al Masry in Port Said.
With four of his players – Adrian Chama, Jackson Chirwa, Mike Katiba and Friday Samu doing duty for the Chipolopolo at the African Nations Championship in Morocco, Musonda was sure the quartet were going to lift the other squad members at Al Masry Stadium on a Saturday night.
Everything was in place as Buffaloes were the latest celebrities in Port Said, a coastal town on the Mediterranean Sea, posing for photos with almost every Egyptian who came their way, either at the team hotel, on the streets or at the Al Masry training ground.
But posing for photos is different from the match.
As Buffaloes begin their focus on the league kicking off next month, Nkana may learn one or two lessons from the army club’s sojourn in the Confederation Cup.
The performance of Buffaloes, Nkana, Zanaco and Zesco in the CAF competitions may be a dress rehearsal for the FAZ-MTN Super Division championship kicking off on March 17, 2018.
The title race will not be restricted to the four clubs as Power Dynamos who have brought in Kelvin Kaindu, Buildcon, Kabwe Warriors, Green Eagles and Napsa Stars, among others will also be a force to reckon with.
Soccer fans await a feisty local calendar.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.
Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO