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Zambia has very talented youth teams but what happens at senior level?

Expert View: What happens to Zambia’s abundant young talent at senior level

On 12th March 2017, in the presence of a 60 thousand capacity crowd at Heroes Stadium in Lusaka Zambia won it’s first ever U20 Africa cup of nations title by beating Senegal 2-0 with goals from Patson Daka and Edward Chilufya.After ninety minutes the crowd and the nation at large went into a frenzy. They were celebrations everywhere, a new generation of Zambian footballers had delivered the elusive U20 title.


It was a splendid performance from the boys with the likes of Patson Daka, Enock Mwepu, Edward Chilufya, Fashion Sakala and Emmanuel Banda at the centre of it all. The boys had just won COSAFA about a month prior to the tournament or so and then went on to reach the quarter finals of the U20 World cup for the first time in the history of the nation.

Zambia U20 National team celebrating their AFCON triumph

Well in as much as this team is something of a special breed, let’s face it Zambia has had great talent from time in memorial. Who remembers the 2007 squad of Emmanuel Mayuka, Clifford Mulenga, William Njobvu, Stophilla Sunzu and many others . The current U17 squad is another example of a good Zambian youth team, they have reached the final of the U17 COSAFA championships despite being assembled in a month.

The U20 class of 2007 faced a Uruguay squad with the likes of Luis Suarez and Edson Cavani, they beat them 2-0 and then the two are household names in the world of football but where are our players? at Zamalek, Kabwe Warriors, released at Hapoel Rannana really?, What went wrong?.

Justin Zulu (15) and Roger Kola (18) in a match against Jordan in the 2007 Canada World cup

Players in Europe and America ( North and South) start their development at a very tender age. Cristiano Ronaldo was shipped off to Sporting Lisbon aged 12, Before that he was playing organised football at Andorra, Nowonder today he plays at one of the biggest clubs in the world.


This is the one of the big differences between developed nations and us. They actually create players into what they want them to be and here we just bump into players and hope God did us a favour and put abundant talent in the players.

FC Barcelona felt their La Masia project of U8 was not enough and they went on to introduce Under 3. Now how do you think the boys that have been training professionally from the age of 3 will turn out at 20?,Okay let’s say Fashion Sakala was discovered at age 5 or 10 as compared to the 16 year old they found, how good would he be today? . He would have been perfected into what we needed him to be and just maybe I mean maybe he would have been the one Real Madrid would be talking of breaking the bank for as compared to Kylian Mpappe.

Barcelona’s La Masia in training

Early Identification of talent is key at both club and national team level. Red Arrows had young arrows but where did it disappear to? . Look at Sensational Zanaco and their Young Zanaco project. This year we have already seen Langson Kapumbu, Damiano Kola and Kunda Nkandu feature for the senior Zanaco side and give very good performances whenever they have been called upon.

In the back ground :Young Zanaco players ( L-T Timo,Langson Kapumbu,Kunda Nkandu and Damiano Kola)

The Football association of Zambia (FAZ) president Andrew Kamanga has on many occasions  hinted at new project the association wants to embark on. According to him the process of selecting players for U15 and U13 to groom  for the next 5-10 years is already under way, by way of making sure all the logistics are in place.

Tanzania and Kenya are already up and running with the projects, so i  even wonder why it took us this long. If it is implemented never the less will be a very good thing for Zambian Football and players development.

Young boys playing street soccer .


It’s encouraging to hear stories of a player who is at the top like Cristiano Ronaldo going to the training pitch earlier than everyone and be the last to leave. He has won everything why does he need to do this? , Well he wants to stay at the top, a mentality Zambian players can learn to have.

It’s like some players aim just to get a national team call up and then that’s the end of it all. Aim higher, be like Messi, He retired from Argentina and the President of the country asked for a meeting with him to Persuade him to come put of retirement. Tell a player who can command that kind of attention in Zambia and earn himself a statue? , am guessing none but why should players stop working hard if they are not even the biggest names around?.

Players need to understand that they have to put in the hard work and then they can live a good lifestyle once they retire. Football is as shirt career and if you are not careful it can even be shorter than normal. Players need to work on improving their game, watch their diet, Yes diet, why eat as if you are not a sportsman? , You will eat all the food you want after you retire but whilst actively playing football watch that diet.

Collins Mbesuma in action during his Portsmouth days


In as much as we can blame the powers that be and the players themselves, another culprit in this cycle are the intermediaries ( Agents). Some players have been victims of selfish agents who only want to enrich themselves at the expense of a players football development. Players need to be worry of such characters and make sure they are not victims of the situation.

Otherwise despite all these drawbacks Zambia still remains one of the African nations with the best football talent that can be tapped into and be made use of for both footballing reasons and business reasons. Football is big business and can employ alot of people but only if we put our house in order, start to work at making it better and make sure we protect it from greedy individuals.

6 Comments to Expert View: What happens to Zambia’s abundant young talent at senior level

  1. Logic says:

    Good observations but I think there is a poverty element attached to this also. Our players have this mentality of having arrived once they get to Europe or put on National colors. They get excited about making the most money they have ever made in their lives and that is why you see them settle for no team teams in Congo, Malaysia, South Africa, etc. Most of them lack the hunger to get better as long as they can buy a Benz or house. Most dream of playing for big teams but do not put in the work necessary to do that. Every player should dream and aspire to be the best at their position and work towards that…We do not see any player in Zambia even thinking or saying I want to be a bigger legend than Ucar or Kalusha, etc and that is a problem

  2. Anonymous says:

    I like the idea of starting at young age. Our be lacked in techniques for a long time now.. probably the future player might be a good technical knowledge of how n when to pass n hit the ball.

  3. Positive thinking says:

    Very good observations. I have always said FAZ should work with both Ministry of Sport and the Education ministry to introduce organized soccer in primary and secondary schools.

  4. GSK11 says:

    Every so often a generation comes along that mesmerize. It happened at Man United, Brazil… but its impossible to replicate success consistently at such a high level forever. Even world class individuals emerge inconsistently from a country every 20-30years. England won the recent under 20 world cup after decades of mediocrity. All the top teams fall apart after 3 years, the only exception maybe was Al Ahly of Egypt. It just my humble opinion.

  5. GSK11 says:

    Nice analysis Mr Mubanga. talent on its own is not enough as you have rightly pointed out.

  6. Seen from Afar says:

    Good article. For whatever reason our youth football was in dire straits from 97 wc appearance all the way through Kalus reign until now when arrive at another wc appearance. It is looking up now but we need make sure our youth are reaching the top in their careers. We have a big problem, maybe not all the players fault, look at the youth in our afcon winning squad(youngest squad at the competition) what happened to those players. Sunzu tried to break Europe as did Mayuka but neither had the success we hoped.

    Think about how far Kalu and Charlie cool made it and how simply it was done. At the time both of their clubs were playing European football at a higher quality than what we have seen any Zambian reach. We need to make sure our young players understand fully requirments of a big industry of young players in Europe. They need to be able to integrate in whatever setup they will arrive in over there so they are not at any disadvantage.

    Now we need to see our youth making it. It is about time.

    Making it in europe is a goal, but it is not everything as it is a personal achievement. players should also know that who plays professionally and regularly anywhere in the world they can also be part of the bedrock of national team success.

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