Zambia wake up and do the right thing, You have too much talent
Talent is an exceptional natural ability in a particular activity that comes without training, it is an in-born thing often contrasted from skill. Skill is an ability acquired and developed through practice, it is an art of expressing talent.
A person can have the talent and can’t reap desired results if he doesn’t have a skill. A skill is the art of making the best of the ability and perfecting it to attain the best results. A person can have talent but if he doesn’t know how to use it, he won’t benefit anything from it despite engaging himself in the related activity. It is like having a vehicle but not knowing how to drive it. A skill is an important aspect in the success of everything.
Most Zambian and African football players at large have talent but don’t have the skill. It is not their fault that they don’t have the skill, it is all down to top clubs. Top clubs in Africa don’t have a policy of tapping into young talent thereby contributing to low standards of play and this problem has a solution.
For Africa and Zambia to match western football, they must change their football ways. No African country has won and not even reaching the semi-finals of the men’s FIFA world cup since its inception in 1930 and to make matters worse, no African club has won the FIFA club world cup. For Zambia the story is worse, it has never been to the men’s top football showpiece 90 years since it started and to add salt to the wound, no Zambian club has won the CAF champions league in the new format not even reaching finals. Something must be wrong, indeed Zambia and Africa as a whole have gotten it wrong football-wise. The focus will be on Zambia mainly
For a player to grow and mature into a complete one, a lot is involved. The key component in the development of Zambian football is grassroots football. You can’t have a strong house if you have not put it on a strong foundation. Foundation is what makes a house strong not the walls or anything after foundation.
The Western part of the world has done a tremendous job in this area beating us Africans to the task and it’s by no surprise that we can’t match them thereby remaining inferior to them. They have under 10,12,15,17,20, reserve teams and leagues which Africa and Zambia, in particular, don’t have. They have built a strong foundation, it is not that they are better than us or we can’t match them but it is because they have a secret to nurturing talent and they have known how to express it.
For a football player to be top-notch, he must know the basics like how to trap the ball, make a pass, when to pass, how to pass, how to keep hold of position on and off the ball, when and how to shoot, how to detect play, how to manage his talent and more.
Let’s narrow it down, at the age of 10 a player needs to know simple basics things like trapping the ball, how to pass, etc. At 12 a player needs to know when to make a pass, needs to start identifying for himself the best-preferred position as he is flexible and can adapt to each position provided he is guided.
At 15 a football player needs to know what the role is for each of the 11 field numbers and this doesn’t just happen, someone who understands football has to clearly explain it to the lad. At 17 a football player has to know how to keep hold of his position both on and off the ball to maintain shape and formation of the team, not the usual ‘chipante-pante’ football of just kicking the ball from the back to front with no good strings of passes, there must be build-up play because football is entertainment and entertainment should be appealing.
At 20 a player needs to be taught mental strength, how to manage the first and last few minutes of each half as they are critical and defining moments, he must be taught how to keep a lead and most importantly since it is a breakthrough or blossom stage of their career, they need to be taught how to manage their fame, Women and the parties.
At the reserve side or team B in other instances, they need to be given an opportunity like for example if a Zambian super league club has qualified for the ABSA cup, the team needs to fuse in few promising lads from the reserve side in the first starting 11 with the main team players so that they kill the fear and to test themselves if they are ready for bigger task ahead, where he needs to improve before graduating to the first team and most importantly he needs to acclimatize with the environment. This is the case in England was most FA matches, main teams feature some players from junior teams
Do our African particularly Zambian clubs and association provide such an opportunity? NO! Maybe a few do but a third of them don’t. Do we have a CAF champions league for under 17,20 clubs? no, we don’t have. FAZ recently launched the U-16 league which is a good step. Our friends in Europe for example we hear under 17 manchester city facing Chelsea under 17 in a national under 17 league different from the ones we have in Zambia where we just have an unwell established provincial amateur league which mostly don’t feature youth teams from the super league.
But there’s something to smile about as FAZ has started putting up something of sort of forming well-established youth leagues. We need a national under 20 league where an under 20 team from Chipata for example can be playing in a league with teams from choma, Lusaka, etc for greater exposure. Other FAZ Super League teams need to emulate Nkana and Lusaka dynamos who have youth teams which are doing well, should other super league teams start doing what Nkana, Zanaco, and Lusaka dynamos are doing then we will see massive improvements on the pitch soon.
Do our top super league clubs have youth teams from under 10 to the reserve setup? they don’t have. Our friends in England for example a championship team like Fulham have got all the junior teams ranging from as below as 8 to the reserve side. Our friends in Europe have a UEFA champions league for lower teams which our CAF doesn’t provide.
Our Zambian clubs can do better than they have done so far with the little resources they have. Yes, money is involved but they have money already. If they can’t manage to have all lower teams why not start from under 15 or 17 to 20 or even reserve side. Football is about motivation and mostly motivation comes with money and winning. But does it mean these kids need money as motivation, definitely no. They just need a platform for a breakthrough to the senior team so that they start earning money, not at a tender age of 15 or 17 playing for money.
All these Kids need is to be taken to school and in our Zambian case, school fees for a pupil are not more than k1000 per term and in day schools the same k1000 is for the whole year, putting uniforms and other few needs maybe it can amount to k1500 per person, this means that an under 17 team for example with 18 players can cost k27,000 on all school expenses whole year which a thing the kids will require from a team. Boots and traveling expenses for matches the whole year can cost maybe k70,000 which when 27,000 is added it will reach k97,000. Can our Zambian clubs who are spending more than k400,000 on signing a single player mostly who are foreigners fail to sponsor 4 youth teams with the same amount? they cant fail. Only a few super leagues can fail although even they can manage to sponsor at least 2 or a few lower youth teams, so the issue of money should not be the problem as most clubs can handle youth teams. But again many sponsors must come on board to support such initiatives hence the need for everyone to get involved.
You can’t expect a player to join a team at the age of 17 and expect him to be a better player. You cant expect a house with no foundation to withstand a storm. The lad has missed critical components of football. He doesn’t know how to trap a ball, make a pass when to make a pass, when and how to shoot, what the roles are for each number in the field of play as there was no one to teach him.
These are lads who when they get an opportunity to play at the top level they fail to compete, they fail to string good passes, fail to play to the formation as they cant maintain position on and off the ball, fail to keep a lead and it becomes torture when they face teams with players who have passed through the youth system who understands more aspects of the game.
Another aspect is for our players to be taught how to manage fame, many become content when they secure a big move thereby failing to play to their potential as they fail to play at the top level for long because they easily get attracted to everything causing them to lose focus. Many get to start womanizing, partying, and drinking carelessly hence ruining their career
CAF should also introduce the youth club champions league for better exposure of young players. Young players need to start getting exposed to playing at the top level at a tender age. For a start, CAF can put up a policy which says all clubs playing in its CAF club competition that particular season should have an under 20 side to participate in its under 20 CAF champions league and if a team fails, then it should not be allowed to participate in the competition. Going forward they also introduce other CAF club youth leagues.
FAZ should also set-up maybe for a start an under 15,17 and 20 national league were all super league teams should have had teams participate in these three youth teams and should a club fail to have a team in any of the three youth leagues, that club should not be allowed to play in the super league. We don’t want to hear youth teams that most clubs purported to have which are dormant. Football house should harden the rules and not spare any team.
Let’s talk about foreign players in our league who have added a little value but haven’t improved the standards of play. What have our clubs achieved other than one semi-final berth in the CAF champions league with foreign players who mostly are not starters in their respective nations? These foreign players whom clubs are spending huge sums of money on also don’t understand most aspects of the game. The responsibility is in our hands. Foreign players won’t improve our league
If we want Zambian clubs to win the CAF champions league, we need to invest in grassroots football. Apart from sundowns in south Africa and TP Mazembe in central Africa, no other club from any of the four regions of Africa have been winning the CAF club competitions more often than North African clubs. The reason is simple, sundowns have many youth teams and they have a well-established philosophy of play and have a good scouting season, they buy players who understand all aspects of the game and that’s the more reason why they beat North African teams who have been dominant to the CAF club competition trophies.
This is also the same with TP Mazembe, almost the whole of its first 11 are starters at their respective nations who also understand most aspects of football. Almost all North African super league clubs have active youth teams, this is the reason why when they are away they can pick up points and able to keep a lead. They are coached by top quality coaches with proper techniques. Which Zambian club can boast of such recruitments, the mental aspect of the game, and with top coaches?
It is not that these guys who are doing well in the CAF champions league have more money than our clubs, they just know the runnings of the game of football. For our Zambian clubs to start competing well with these top African clubs, they need to come up with a proper football philosophy, proper scouting system to avoid recruiting foreigners just for the name and they need to be appointing coaches with top coaching credentials and licenses as they possess more knowledge about modern football
Our coaches need to better their qualifications, most Zambian coaches don’t know modern football tactics, they rely on old ones which they were taught when they used to play football as most of our coaches were once footballers. Football has evolved, many techniques and tactics have come to the fore. As earlier alluded to, a vehicle cant moves if the owner doesn’t know how to drive it. Zambia can have better players at the club level but if our coaches are below par, we cant achieve anything. Our clubs need to start recruiting coaches with proper coaching credentials and licenses. By doing everything above, we can be guaranteed a champions league trophy.
What should African teams do to win the world cup?. They need to have well-established youth teams with qualified coaches. They need to select players for senior teams who have been through the ranks of youth teams. They need to look for all aspects of football in a player and they need to monitor players closely who are playing for junior teams and graduate them respectively to the next rank so that they don’t miss any aspect of the game unlike what is happening were African nations are picking players who have burst to the scene within short time who don’t possess what it takes to compete with top teams.
Western countries have been dominant not because they are talented than us, but they have schooled their players. African players are talented than most European players but because our players don’t know how to express their talents which is a skill, we have fallen inferior to them. One example is France, it won the 2018 world cup with almost 60% of their players being of African traces and it is simple to explain this as we all know that these African players for France national team grew up in Europe and they passed through many ranks of youth teams hence better equipped with football knowledge.
North Africans and maybe South Africa also have youth structures but what is lacking is the exposure of playing at the highest level, they are lacking an international platform for the young talent to get exposed so that they understand what it takes and what it means to be a complete player. They have local youth structures like leagues but they just end up playing within themselves of which they cant improve much, they need to learn and see what others elsewhere are doing.
This explains why CAF club football has been dominated by PSL teams and North Africans as they have good youth structures. Zambian clubs should learn something from this.
One good example of this youth structure is the Asec Mimosa of 1998 which won the CAF champions league, it had good youth structures by then and graduated players to the main team who even managed to go to Europe and succeeded as they understood everything about football. It had the likes of Kolo Toure and Boubacar Copa to name a few. When power dynamos won the CAF winners cup in 1991, Zambian clubs had good youth structures.
All that is available for the young talent in Africa are junior AFCON tournaments apart from regional competitions like COSAFA. Junior AFCON tournaments are played every two years thereby limiting exposure time and few matches are played at the same tournaments as they contain no more than 8 teams. What can a player learn in less than 6 international matches after 2 years? In western countries, they have youth international leagues played all year round like the under 20 UEFA champions league of which CAF doesn’t provide.
As earlier alluded to, talent needs to be expressed by the use of skill. Our African lads can have talent but if they are not given enough skill to showcase it, they won’t know how to use it. For us to win the world cup, we need to work on our youth structures.
The secret lies in young players coupled with proper youth or junior teams tournaments, equipment, good coaches for them and smoothly graduating them to the next rank without making them jump a lot of ranks. Should Africans do this, then we are up for a match with any team on earth. Don’t expect a player to join a team at the age of 17 with a shaky youth system in Zambia and be an instant hit.
Those youth teams we have in compounds are good, yes but they lack equipment and good coaches which are pivotal for the development of young talent.
All this comes with huge investment, companies, and people with the financial muscle need to come to the party and help with this development. It will take collective efforts from all Africans to achieve such a milestone.
The time to wake up and put everything to work is now otherwise Zambia will remain trailing behind other African nations so will be Africa with the rest of the world. We have talent, let’s skill it out.
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