IT’S difficult to really describe the performance of the senior national team in the AfCON qualifiers.
After missing out on the last two editions, every Zambian was looking for a blazing start to the 2021 qualifiers. Alas! All of us millions of soccer fans countrywide have been put to shame.
We lost to Algeria 5-0; that was embarrassing, especially the score line because whichever way you look at it, we were not going to win in Blida but the score line was not accepted.
But coming to lose to Zimbabwe 2-1 in Lusaka after the Blida humiliation is simply shuttering, unacceptable and illogical for a country that so much needs to get back to the football world stage by way of qualifying to the AfCON.
Now unless a miracle happens, it looks like a hat trick of Africa cup misses. Shame!
Let’s look at team selection for the two assignments and maybe, just maybe we can agree on something.
Of our so-called professionals, only Nathan Sinkala, Evans Kangwa and Tandi Mwape have performed like professionals in the two games against Algeria and Zimbabwe.
Captain Kabaso Chongo was perhaps misplaced in Algeria; that is why he had a torrid time keeping Riyad Mahrez in check.
Though Kabaso started his career as a right back, he was turned into a central defender years back and he has been very consistent in that position in recent times and therefore fitting in, was problematic in Blida.
But against Zimbabwe, Kabaso and Tandi were fantastic to watch, they were let down by wing-backs.
The reason Evans, Kabaso, Tandi and Nathan performed the way they did is that they play football at their respective clubs, Arsenal Tula in Russia, and TP Mazembe in Congo.
The rest of foreign based players are all bench warmers in desperate need of game time at their clubs such that one begins to wonder whether they are on holiday or not-they are professionals on paper.
The Premier Soccer League (PSL) in South Africa is very popular here in Zambia because it is televised every weekend like the English Premier League and we see that our players based in South Africa currently do not play, those that are lucky at least sit on the substitutes’ bench.
The most consistent South Africa based player in the past month has been Kennedy Mweene who started a number of games for Mamelodi Sundowns in the absence of Ugandan Denis Onyango, who lost in Zambia.
Ironically, all benchwarmers in the PSL were called to the Chipolopolo and Mweene wasn’t.
To be honest, the argument that Mweene has seen his days is quite misplaced because of the three goal keepers that we are lining up, including the newest Zambian, South African-based Cyril Chibwe, who handled the Zimbabwe game, they are not better than Mweene.
Goal keeping is the most sensitive area on the pitch. There, you don’t gamble, in fact, Mweene needs to be around these young goal keepers, they are not that bad after all, but Kennedy can do a whole lot of good to turn them into the best goal keepers we want them to be.
Coming back home, those that consistently watch the MTN/FAZ Super League would agree when I say I believe in my heart of hearts that Zesco United duo of Clement Mwape and Mwila Phiri could have mended the leaking left and right back positions against Zimbabwe because they have been at their best in the Super League.
Kelvin Mubanga, Emmanuel Chabula and Clatous Chama could have handled Zimbabwe better.
There is also Bruce Musakanya and Amity Shamende.
These are the in-form players, they are playing regularly at their clubs back home and with due respect, other than its riches, personally I am one of those that don’t believe that the PSL is technically a better or stronger league than the MTN/FAZ Super League.
Therefore, it is an insult to bench or not select our best performing players at the expense of PSL or foreign bench warmers and now the signs are written all over the wall.
Coach Aggrey Chiyangi needs to be brave enough to give his local players in the CHAN team confidence to perform at the highest level.
We can’t continue playing names based on their past glory simply because they used an aeroplane to come to Zambia-no, we need to pick good active players, they are there in the league, they just encouragement.
If a player is not good enough at his club, he shouldn’t be good for the national team, our coaches should be courageous enough summon the best regardless and there are so many examples I can give in that regard but due to space limitations, I leave it here. He who has ears, let him hear.
Look at the U-23 AfCON we couldn’t beat South Africa which had six players from its lower division, even beat Ivory Coast.
Instead of national pride, it’s now national shame! Painful!