THE men’s hockey national team at the weekend qualified for the All Africa Games despite losing 3-2 in the finals against Zimbabwe at the just ended Central and Southern Africa qualifiers held in Zimbabwe.

And Sports minister Elvis Nkandu says the team’s qualification to the All Africa Games is evidence the country has bounced back to its sporting glory days.

Both Zambia and Zimbabwe qualified to the All Africa Games with a game to spare and only went to play the finals for rankings.

Coach Elvis Bwalya described the Zimbabwe loss as painful but was quick to state numerous missed chances cost the team.

“We played well until Philimon Bwali got a red card. It’s a painful loss because we wanted to win all our games. The comfort is that we qualified for the All Africa Games after the victory against Malawi on Saturday. We went for everything in the finals but missed a good number of chances and I think it’s against the gods of the game. We got punished and going forward we need to learn to make use of our chances,” said Bwalya.

On the pitch Zimbabwe took the lead as early as the second minute through Tendayi Maredza who combined with Mugore Tafazdwa in the build up for the goal.

Bwali levelled matters for Zambia with a beautiful finish from close range after benefiting from a Floyd Chomba ball.

Tafadzwa restored Zimbabwe’s lead in the 15th minute but Alfred Mphande levelled two minutes later.

With the game seemingly headed for penalties, Tapiwa Mushayakarara scored the winner for Zimbabwe in the 59th minute to break the hearts of the Bwalya tutored side.

To qualify for the All Africa Games, Zambia thrashed Malawi 5-1 on Saturday evening following a match fully packed with action from end to end.

A hat trick from Philimon Bwali and a goal apiece from Floyd Chomba and Andrew Moyo was enough to qualify Zambia with a game to spare.

Malawi took the lead in the 25th minute through Daniel Matavata but Philimon Bwali levelled matters for Zambia two minutes later.

Chomba doubled the lead for Zambia in the 32nd minute before Bwali added another three minutes later.

Bwali completed his hat trick in the 37th minute with an easy finish off a Chomba curler.

And Sports minister Elvis Nkandu said the team’s qualification for the All Africa Games is a signal the country was back to its glory days.

“As government we are proud of the team’s qualification to the All Africa Games. This is indeed a sign that as a country, we are headed back to our glory days in all sports disciplines. Well done gentlemen and we are proud of you. It’s unfortunate, you lost the final against Zimbabwe,” said Nkandu.