By Jeff Kapembwa
Lusaka - Zambia may have lost the slot to participate at this year’s 34th edition of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) and rekindle the team’s reputation as continental champions, but the desire to remain competitive with a hope to win the converted trophy someday remains the coaching staff’s dream.
As Zambia competes in the Cosafa Cup under way in South Africa, the national team remains undaunted by the spell of bad luck which has seen the team fail to compete in the continental football, in the aftermath of their 2012 victory that crowned them champions.
The team believes its continued participation in continental events will help sharpen the players, both local and foreign based and consolidate a squad capable of repeating the feat when it beat the much vaunted and star-studded Ivory Coast side 8-7 on penalties in 2012 to lift the trophy for the first time.
“We lost the slot for African Cup of Nations which kicks off this June, but we are determined to retain our reputation as global footballing nation…….for now we are making a team capable of competing in all tournaments as preparatory for major competitions, Aggrey Chiyangi, senior national soccer team stand-in coach said in an interview in Lusaka.
Chiyangi, a former international who pried his trade at home and foreign soil in his heydays and is now tutoring Zambia National Service sponsored side, Green Eagles, which has since qualified for continental tournaments under his reign, sees Zambia retaining its winning ways as the team continues consolidating its skills with players playing together in many tournaments.
“We are rebuilding the team, a group that will soon return to its winning ways and reclaim the long lost trophy that we cherished so much,” Chiyangi said on departure for South Africa to compete in the Cosafa tournament.
With his, he has assembled a team of 20 players. He is confident they will deliver the services and see Zambia win the tournament being hosted in Durban. His dependable charges include former international and Zesco United’s nimble footed striker Lazarus Kambole, Chitiya Mususu, Emmanuel Chabula, one of the emerging scorers on the local league, and Tapson Kaseba.
Other dependable players in the squad include Ernest Mbewe, Kelvin Kampamba, Bruce Musakanya and Tapson Kaseba among high performing players in the local league. Others are midfielder Austin Muwowo.
The team’s itinerary was for it to arrive at King Shaka’s international Airport on Tuesday and allow it to acclimatise with the weather before playing its Group B first game encounter against group winners on 2 June. The group has Namibia, Mozambique, Seychelles and Malawi.
Zambia is not new to Cosafa and has won the trophy four times and emerged runners up in the last two editions, losing in the quarter finals to Zimbabwe via 1-2 and 2-4 in 2017 and 2018 respectively. The tournament in Durban runs from May 25 to June 8. The final is set for June 8 at Moses Mabhida Stadium.