ZAMBIA Under-20 national team coach Charles Bwale says age cheating at junior clubs is limiting the selection of players to the various national teams.
And Bwale has refused to be called a failure after his side was knocked out of the Mopani COSAFA tournament at semi-final stage by Zimbabwe after losing 2-1 on Tuesday.
Zambia played disjointed football in the first half that left most home fans frustrated and demanding improvements.
However, Zambia improved with Lameck Banda turning provider when his cross in the box was met by Prince Mumba who headed in the opener in the 36th minute.
The celebration was short-lived as a minute later Zimbabwe equalised through Andrew Mbeba after a howler by goalie Bradley Mweene.
Zimbabwe added another which proved to be the winner through Delic Murimba.
Although Zambia improved in the second half, in a bid to restore parity, the lads missed a myriad of scoring chances.
“We were sluggish today. Our defence was not well coordinated today. You can’t call me a failure because this is not totally a new team, some are school boys and there are a lot of positives to learn from the tournament. It’s just that this team is coming at the time we won the Africa Cup with the other U-20 and the expectations of the fans are very high after the AfCON triumph,” Bwale said.
Asked to justify why he consistently used fluffing players like left back Christopher Katongo and Banda, Bwale said he struggled to pick players with the right age as most players that were presented to him as U-20 from clubs were discovered to be overage.
“It’s difficult, the question we were asking ourselves was ‘who is going to replace him?’ Most footballers are over age, so it’s very difficult to assemble the U-20 team. Most players cheat,” he added.
“Let me give you examples, I undertook a talent identification programme alone. I started from Chingola, went to Mufulira up to Ndola. I went to Power Dynamos, they gave four players as U-20 but you go to the system, you find that they have changed clubs, they are not below 20. I came here at Nkana they gave me three to four players, the same, only Oliver Lumbiya was found to be U-20, Ndola… so it’s difficult.”
Bwale insisted that there were a lot of positives to learn despite the defeat and was happy with the progress his team has made so far.
And Zimbabwe coach Bekithemba Ndhlovu said it was difficult playing the home side but was happy his team made it to the final.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe this afternoon meets South Africa in the final while Zambia will fight for a third place against Angola.