I don’t know about you, but, as an allrounder football lover, I am sick, very tired and completely fed up, with the poor performance of Chipolopolo, our male national team. I am still angry, very, very, very angry, Palestine oppressing Israel beat us 4 – 2, in a friendly game, last November, played in Israel of all places! I had hoped our boys, now that somehow Zambia actually plays football in Israel, would give suffering Palestinians some smile, by walloping Israel, for our Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) transgression of the world informal sporting boycott of beleaguered Israel.
Instead we got a humiliating beating, 4 – 2, by Israel. We even gifted them an own goal. FAZ has since gone on to appoint an Israeli, Avram Grant, as Chipolopolo coach. Believe me, when I say I have nothing against ordinary citizens of Israel, including Avram Grant. As I write this, I am fully aware that hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens are actually protesting in the streets of Israel about the prospects for injuring the little democracy which exists there, by the proposed constitutional changes by the extreme right wing and Zionist current government of Israel. I wish Israeli citizens the very best, in their defence of democracy.
I also know that many Israelis would love to live peacefully, side by side, with Palestinians, in a just, democratic and peaceful united country. The troubles in that part of the world cannot be ignored, by us who know what slavery, colonialism, racism and imperialist oppression and exploitation mean. Nor, for that matter, must we ever allow ourselves the inglorious luxury of ignoring the violence going on, every day, in that part of the world, as Palestinians fight for their land, freedom and the right of return. Casually enjoying a friendly game of football in Israel, as we did, helps create the false international image of an Israel at peace with itself. Injustice anywhere in the world must concern us all.
In fact, I am also well aware of some good work done for a long time by an Israeli football talent scout and manager, Nir Karin, in exposing several talented Zambian players to Israel and European football, thereby enriching our domestic football. Nir Karin has been associated with Zambian football at least for not less than 15 years now. He manages the contracts of several of our footballers abroad.
It is this fascinating matter of IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and its relationship to our national football players exposure to more competitive and richer football leagues, FAZ leadership, and the performance of our Chipolopolo that bothers me.
Of course I am mad we are out of the TotalEnergies U-20 Africa Cup of Nations Egypt 2023. Chisi Mbewe, our erstwhile U-20 National Team coach has singled out our U-20 players Intelligence Quotient (IQ) for Zambia’s poor performance at AFCON. There is absolutely no need to crucify coach Chisi Mbewe for his use of “Intelligence Quotient” in this instant: he explained what he meant by saying that our players were outclassed because their opponents, Tunisia, had a good contingent of foreign based players, in their team.
“The Intelligence Quotient (IQ) of some of my players was lower than that of the opponents we were facing, if you look at our opponents, they all had players based in Europe. This is a disappointing result for me and my team, we wanted to win this match and qualify for the quarter-finals,” lamented Chisi Mbewe, in the post-match interview. There was so much hope our Juniour Copper Kings would do well, sad and crushed as I may be, I still feel sorry for our boys and their coach.
Magnanimously, Chisi actually expressed great hope in his lads, and their chances of making it into the seniour team, our Chipolopolo. “There are a lot of players from this group that have the potential to make it into the senior squad but we only need to nurture them more. I know the results we have registered in this tournament will paint a very bad picture and make players like they are bad players but there is a lot of potential in the boys. We need to encourage the boys because this exit is painful and can destroy their careers. I think they did what they could do but it has not been a good tournament for us. We really wanted to qualify for the next round but it was not the case,” Chisi Mbewe concluded.
Chisi Mbewe is right, about the potential in his players. Ignore and forgive his misplaced use of “Intelligence Quotient”. There is no doubt in my mind that a well-oiled, adequately groomed, properly internationally exposed U-20 Zambian Junior National Team can beat any African team, including Tunisia, Nigeria and Ivory Coast. In fact we should be a permanent feature at any FIFA world cup tournament. We are a football giant in the African continent. Recently our female teams have become so good they are building international reputations for themselves. Well nurtured and prepared our Copper Queens should do well at the coming FIFA Female World Cup competition.
Writing in one of his weekly column, “Presidents Corner”, Andrew Kamanga, FAZ President, has assured Zambians Chipolopolo are on course to qualify for the 2023 Ivory Coast Africa Cup of Nations that will be held in 2024. “The Chipolopolo are on course for qualification for the 2023 Ivory Coast Africa Cup of Nations (to be played in 2024) with our immediate task in the new year to focus on the March back-to-back qualifiers against Lesotho, with the new coach Avram Grant in place, we have no doubt that the team will be entering the new year with renewed vigour,” Kamanga wrote.
“As always, we will accord the team quality preparations for the March engagements. We are mindful of the limited time within which we can have full international friendly matches, but we will liaise with the technical bench to ensure that the team is well prepared,” Kamanga said.
We of course lost the November 2022 preparatory match with Israel, 4 -2. We have a new coach, having disastrously failed to properly manage the contract of the last one. We have been booted out of the TotalEnergies U-20 Africa Cup of Nations Egypt 2023. In the midst of our important preparations to beat Lesotho and increase our chances of qualifying for 2023 Ivory Coast Africa Cup of Nations (to be played in 2024) FAZ general secretary Adrian Kashala is out, and, former Deputy Sports Minister Steven Masumba says FAZ president Andrew Kamanga is pushing Adrian Kashala out of FAZ, running the association like a chicken-run, and is calling for a vote of no confidence in Kamanga. It could not get any worse, for focused, disciplined FAZ preparations to secure our passage to the 2023 Ivory Coast Africa Cup of Nations, to be played in 2024.
It is very painful to count how many times, and going through how we have failed to merely qualify for the seniour male African Cup of Nations. Do all the people at FAZ actually know and understand the humiliation and pain we Zambian football lovers have suffered? Do the FAZ office bearers know the full damage done to the football careers of our national team players when we fail to qualify for the premier continental male FIFA football tournament?
I imagine the destabilisation, unproductive media noises, and the inevitable chaos and confusion in the Chipolopolo Camp in general and in the minds of our potential national team players in particular, as the clearly not funny circus in FAZ runs its full course. That we have a new Chipolopolo coach who must navigate his way in this environment simply compounds the potential our football may suffer.
Both FAZ and those now mounting a “revolution”, how in hell do they expect us to qualify to the 2023 Ivory Coast Africa Cup of Nations, to be played in 2024, in the middle of a “revolution” in FAZ? There must be a cease fire, effectively and productively channelling all energies in FAZ towards ensuring our Copper Queens and Chipolopolo are geared to perform at their highest possible levels, in their upcoming games and tournaments. Zambian lovers of our national football expect nothing less than this.
Correctly, then: what exactly is the IQ of the Andrew Kamanga led FAZ? What is the IQ and patriotism of their detractors, to Zambian football? The results of the upcoming games for the Copper Queens and Chipolopolo will tell. All I know is that heads will roll, in and outside FAZ, should we fail this time around to qualify for the 2023 Ivory Coast Africa Cup of Nations, to be played in 2024.
(Write to me at: [email protected])