CHIPOLOPOLO will tomorrow take on Eswatini in the final leg qualifying round for the Total 2020 CAF African Nations Championship (CHAN) tournament.
Zambia beat the tiny Southern African country at Mavuso stadium in Manzini on September 22 courtesy of Green Eagles’ midfielder Amity Shamende’s solitary goal.
In the return leg, the nation expects nothing but victory in this encounter so that Zambia can once again be represented at this second-tier continental showpiece, a tournament which is a preserve of home-based players only.
Coach Aggrey Chiyangi and his boys must know how important it is to qualify to the CHAN.
We do not reemphasize the significance of Zambia going to Cameroon after two successive AfCON failures.
The quality of players in the CHAN team and the players in the Egypt-bound U-23 team plus other senior players dotted around various leagues on the continental of Africa and beyond, cannot afford to miss another senior AfCON and it is therefore important for us to set the tone by qualifying for the CHAN so that we start the 2021 AfCON qualifiers next month in buoyant mood.
We can safely say that we have rebuilt our national team after a tough post-2012 era and there should be no excuses going forward.
But we have a big challenge in this quest, that we should not run away from – cash.
The sports ministry seems to have taken a hard stance of ‘lack-of-cash’ for the national teams.
This is evident by the reluctance to finance the U-23 preparations en-route to the Olympic qualifying tournament in Egypt next month.
It is important for the honourable minister of sports to remember as he goes to Heroes Stadium to cheer the Chipolopolo tomorrow that when the team qualifies to a tournament of that nature, it becomes the responsibility of the government because it goes to represent the country.
That’s the reason we have government officials and operatives in the host country – otherwise what is the purpose of funding ministry officials’ trip to a tournament which government has not funded?
The Football Association of Zambia has done very well with all women’s national teams, the U-23, CHAN and other age group teams and can’t afford to drop the guard now.
It is therefore incumbent upon the government to ensure that this momentum does not slow down by finding money for these boys. We know there is money somewhere for the national teams.
As long as money for government officials to fly to Egypt and Cameroon – should we go to CHAN – is there, then money to adequately fund the team’s preparations and pay players must be found with no excuses.
For Chiyangi, qualification to the CHAN is very important for his personal achievement as a coach.
Advertisements for the engagement of a permanent Chipolopolo coach will be done soon and achieving qualification on your part may just be the missing attributes the employers may be looking for.
So, go for it, close those loopholes, tighten the defence, leave no space as we know you and hit them when it matters the most to seal that deal and off we go to Cameroon.
Remember, Eswatini are not just coming here to fulfil the fixture. Costa Papic’s team are on a mission to overturn the first leg result and make history.
If we scored on their home turf, they too can score here and make it difficult for us. So no complacency, please.
From us, it’s Go Zambia Go!