WHERE IS THE NEXT GENERATION TO TAKE UP THE BATON?
(LIVINGSTONE) — What makes this generation ‘a cut above the rest’ is palpably the 2012 Africa Cup of the nations glory. From the Godfrey “Ucar” Chitalu to the Kalusha Bwalya era of the 1988 Seoul Olympics and the 1994 AFCON; the 2012 generation stands out.
I mean no disrespect to the selfless 1994 AFCON squad that in a short period of time after the 1993 Gabon Air disaster was cobbled to play and were on the cusp to win the most coveted trophy in Africa. The 2012 Squad is unequivocal Zambia’s most golden generation.
Sadly, this generation is slowly fading away. That’s how the cookie crumbles. For Kennedy Mweene and his comrades it’s palpably nostalgic moments.
We are at the time of a relay race where the baton has to be passed to the next athlete. But the next athlete is nowhere to be seen. Where is the next golden generation to take up the baton?
Under the tutelage of Wedson Nyirenda, the U-20 side that won the 2017 Africa Cup of the nations on home soil – quickly graduated to the senior national team. And they were vaunted as the harbinger of the next big thing; with the likes of Enock Mwepu, Fashion Sakala and Patson Daka locating the back of the net with their GPS(s).
A Nigerian colleague was captivated by the young Chipolopolo side that unfortunately lost to the Super Eagles in Uyo in the penultimate match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier – thanks to a bias officiating of a Botswana referee. This colleague was charmed by the young Chipolopolo players with “umbilical cords”, according to his words, that gave Nigeria a run for their money. By the way, prior to Uyo, this young side of a relative old legs were fresh from beating Algeria home and away – a thing pretty much unheard of in the history books of Zambian football.
So, then what went wrong to this young side that clearly was primed for greater heights? It all started with the helmsman of the ship Wedson Nyirenda fell out with his paymasters. Then he was almost sent to a scrapheap; hence decided out with Baroka’s offer on his doorstep.
A new coach – wet behind the ears was then appointed – with a wholesale of a too good to be true blueprint, that after Maputo it turned out we were deceived hook line and sinker. Sven Vandenberg was then given the support that his predecessor could only dream of. He traversed all round, watching Chipolopolo stars abroad.
Sven Vandenberg’s announcement of his first squad had members of the fourth estate captivated such that names of the players in the roster even leaked to the media a day before the announcement. “Ba Master is back” headlines in the mainstream papers screamed that the TP Mazembe midfielder was back in the squad.
The return of Chipolopolo stars who coach Wedson Nyirenda had clearly got rid of meant a hiatus on the project of a new new generation that was being built. Under the Belgian coach the U-20 of 2017, the likes of Fashion Sakala, Solomon Sakala, Patson Daka, and whatnot were substandard with nondescript performances.
PROJECT 2026 FIFA WORLD CUP
Clearly, our football is on the deathbed; otherwise how do you explain the failure to qualify for the U-17, U-20 and the senior national team, in a same year. Let’s not even mince our words, our football is in the ICU.
But this is no time for politicking. This is time to propound to the table suggestions that will resuscitate our football from the comatose state.
Often times we hear South Africans perpetually talk about their project 2022 FIFA World Cup. We can as well take a cue from that. Shall we embark on the project 2026 FIFA World Cup.
Coach Charles Bwale and his team manager Mwansa Kapyanga have already done a wonderful job by engaging players in Europe of Zambian decent. The likes of Mwiya Malumo alongside the few from the U-20 squad of 2017 should now be our project 2026.
Zambia cannot afford to face another embarrassment of failing to go to the USA, much less when the FIFA World Cup has been expanded. Whoever will be the FAZ President post 2020, be it Andrew Kamanga should be pragmatic and not obliterate the 2026 project.
Meanwhile, it has been a rocky start for the Andrew Kamanga’s dispensation, particularly with the senior Chipolopolo. However, this regime has had also their heydays. They have also scored major successes in youth and women football. The executive has also brought transparency and transformed the game into a business, of which modern day football it supposed to be. The buck stops at the councillors whether Andrew Kamanga and his team deserves a second bite on the cherry.
[The Author is a scribe of longstanding, fervently about African football. Follow him on Twitter @SibelekiJames.]
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