We must win something, and fast, before the country is certified chronically depressed! I am envious of the Senegalese Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) victory. How I wish we at least were in the quarter finals, or just to be there, at the tournament. It sucks, to be failures, to fail even to just qualify for AFCON!

I was very happy to read a story by Ngosa Chalwe of News Diggers reporting that Lombe Mbalashi, football administrator, laments that our club football will continue to lag behind if our coaches do not upgrade their coaching credentials. This is true, very true. None of our coaches should take this as an attack on them, personally.

Good football today is talent, discipline, science, technology, organisation and poetry on the football field all properly greased by good resourcing of all the other variables, including cold hard cash. Add to this a good fan base, and you are well on your way to be competitive at all levels of the game, and in all its departments.

The state of our football clubs – all of them – is crying out for help in so many ways, if our club and international football must develop and flower to their full potential. And then we can once again return to our winning ways at the national teams’ level, and have real hope to win the AFCON again, and the female World Cup. Lombe Mbalashi is right; one crucial cog in this progress to return to our winning ways at continental club and national levels is to resource our coaches and enable them to constantly upgrade their coaching credentials.

I am happy that our “brand-new” national team coach, for Chipolopolo, Aljosa Asanovic, has promised to put a smile back on our faces, by at least making sure that we qualify for the 2023 edition of AFCON. I am grateful to Asanovic for believing in our boys. He says there is absolutely nothing that stops Zambia from being at AFCON 2023. And he is right, very right, apart from one small matter: whether our clubs will supply the national team with well trained and disciplined players fit to compete and win to qualify for AFCON 2023. And this is where coaching and the quality of our football clubs matter.

We are a football nation. That is who we are. By age10 almost every Zambian child, girl or boy,knows how to make a crude ball from an assortment of materials, because actual footballs are quite pricy and they must compete with money for food. As for boys, it is a must to learn the rudiments of the game, including its rules, if you must continue to make friends and play with them. And so, our talent in football is mass developed in our townships, even before we have touched the cheapest ball.

We love and support, and, are loyal to our clubs. I am a lifelong supporter and fan of Nkana F.C. Until the club itself dies, it has my undying support. That is how loyal we Zambians can be to our clubs. For much of my youth I grew up in Kitwe, went to Chamboli Secondary School and played social football with some of Zambia’s best talents, who went on to play for Nkana Red Devils (as we called them then). It gets to be part of your social DNA, the football club you support. Every Zambian is a qualified football analyst!

Football has of course since undergone a massive revolution, spurred on by many developments in the science and knowledge of the movement of the human body, diet, and physical fitness technologies, and new coaching techniques. Talent, raw talent, is not enough anymore. The relative ease with which football players can roam the world in search of greener pastures has further added fuel to the rapid development of football – foreign players introduce new talent, new techniques, flair and other improvements to the local game. Dry technical and physical British football is currently being enriched by our own highly talented Zambian players, in several British clubs. This is good, for Zambia and Britain.

It costs money, loads of money, to properly own and run a good football club, at any level, in Zambia today. With the collapse of the state-owned economy after Kaunda, and its chaotic replacement by the current “private sector driven” economy, football has also been privatised; it is business. The 18 club Supper League will soon be free from FAZ and be run on commercial lines too. When, therefore the national economy is not doing well, we expect football to suffer too. And so, our football is suffering, at all levels. But we still have our talents and our love intact, for football and for our female and male national teams in particular.

Maybe it is time the fan bases of clubs contributed more than the gate takings, especially considering the loss of income by clubs due to the pandemic. The fans of a clubs can participate in raising funds for targeted aspects of the life of a club, such as sending their coaches for advanced training! Creating the necessary non-profit organisations for this purpose should not be a problem, for each club. Hopefully, in the long term, this could give the fans some greater democratic influence about the goings on in their clubs!

There is the matter of FAZ and the quality of its administration of football in Zambia. There seems to be always some scandal or divisions and personal differences at FAZ that impact negatively, especially on the performance of our clubs and national teams. We need quality, strong, good united leadership of FAZ, at Football House. We need women and men of high morals, integrity and with deep love and a passion for our football, to occupy FAZ elected offices. Which reminds me, where are the women football lovers in the leadership of FAZ? This could just possibly be one source of the perennial crises at FAZ: even as female football has developed and grown locally and globally, FAZ remains a male domain.

It must be the greatest honour a Zambian footballer – male or female – must aspire to: to put on the Chipolopolo or the Copper Queens (She-polopolo) jersey. This is where the Zambian government and its relevant youth and sports ministry become crucial. Organising all sport, not just football, from the lowest grassroots levels to the international levels for the country must be a priority, in good or bad economic times. The government cannot have an arm’s length approach, especially over matters of resourcing all sporting codes in the country, but more especially football, our national sport.

It is the responsibility of government to honour our women and men of talent who perform for the national teams of all our sports, by also making sure that they are properly rewarded for putting Zambia on the global map. There are many issues surrounding participation fees in tournaments and the inequalities between male and female teams. A clear policy and guidelines for these remunerations need to be in place to avoid each tournament being plugged by money problems for players.

Our female and male footballers are very talented. They perform brilliantly anywhere in the world, especially where football is better organised and well resourced. We may not have the money, but with discipline, application of available science and technologies, good organisation, highly motivated teams and loyal club and national fan bases, both our clubs and national teams should be qualifying easily for continental competitions, and performing honourably. We actually need a “New Dawn” in our football!

Zambia must return to its football wining ways. We must start to win, now; it has been such a hell of a long time without a trophy!Coach Aljosa Asanovic, Uncle Azele is watching you!!

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