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.
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?.
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.
LATE IDENTIFICATION OF PLAYERS
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.
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.
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.
LACK OF AMBITION ON THE SIDE OF OUR PLAYERS
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.
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.
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