[By Bright Tembo]
THE Andew Kamanga presidency has experienced a mixed bag of results since the businessman’s ascension to power in March 2016.
Kamanga has had a torrid time with the senior national team while his run with junior and women teams has been something of a historic feat.
After having ascended to power in 2016 through a bitterly contested election that Kamanga was touted as a no hopper, he got down to work with the under project immediately catching his attention.
In December 2016, in South Africa, the Zambia under-20 squad lifted the Cosafa crown. It was not only the victory that captured the attention of the region but also the convincing manner in which the team won.
It was to be the launch pad of the Bola-Na-Lesa boys under the guidance of Beston Chambeshi. The Cosafa run birthed emerging stars like Fashion Sakala, Patson Daka, Enock Mwepu, Edward Chilufya, Boyd Musonda and Mangani Banda, among others.
The team marched on with their dream run with an Africa Cup of Nations victory on home soil two months letter. It was to be Zambia’s first trophy at under-20 level on the African continent. The team was not done breaking new grounds and reached a historic quarterfinal finish at the Korea FIFA Under-20 World Cup.
With the senior team, however, Kamanga has not been as lucky as the Chipolopolo have twice fallen short of Africa Cup of Nations qualification. It has been a troubled experience with the first attempt in 2017 coming in the middle of the race, having inherited everything from the previous regime.
There were however, tougher questions with the 2019 qualification failure after a camping disastrously started with Wedson Nyirenda ended with Belgian Sven Vandenbroeck coming short of qualification for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
The start for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations campaign has not been kinder with two back-to-back losses. However, the circumstances of the losses define one of the greatest stumbling blocks Kamanga has had to face in sports minister Emmanuel Mulenga.
Mulenga has made it his business to be the official opposition to the Kamanga presidency.
He has single handedly stalled the recruitment of a foreign coach and forcibly insisted on Kamanga’s predecessor Kalusha Bwalya to be the centre pivot of the selection process.
He has suggested everything from Bwalya being the possible coach, to leading the process. This has dragged the process longer than usual. The process has continued to drag on to date.
Off the pitch, Kamanga has scored tremendous successes with the FIFA aligned constitution that hitherto had been resisted by FAZ coming to fruition. In 2017, FAZ under the close watch of FIFA adopted a new constitution that presents some of the most progressive ideas.
Chief among the progressive ideas is the equal representation on the national executive committee by all the provinces. Each province will elect one person who will sit on the national executive committee that will now have 13 members from nine. The provincial assemblies will directly elect their members who will sit on the national executive committee while the national election will only elect the president, vice and a woman candidate.
The new constitution also birthed other judicial bodies like the Ethics Committee that was pioneered by FIFA to root out certain illicit activities in the game. It has not had it easy winning support among some errant councillors who see it as being a witch hunt instrument.
However, there is no reversing the Ethics Committee as CAF has incorporated it in its structures.
Kamanga has scored even higher in the area of transparency with routine announcements of gate takings after every international match. Ticketing has also been left in the hands of Computicket. FAZ officials can no longer thrive on moving with booklets of complimentary tickets that they peddled on the black market. It is a feat that has not won Kamanga many friends.
The Kamanga administration has also been development strong having pioneered an annual kit distribution exercise to lower division clubs. Members have been receiving kits and footballs from FAZ every year since 2017 arising from an annual general meeting resolution.
What many may not know is that the kit is purchased using FIFA funds under the annual FIFA/FAZ agreed objectives. These funds were always available previously but were never shared with the members. The fact that FIFA has consecutively renewed this support speaks to the transparency with which the exercise has been conducted.
It is an exercise that has been expanded to include women clubs. Members also additionally receive a token K5,000 as part of support from FAZ. It is an exercise that has been highly beneficial to the lower division clubs who are largely run from the pockets of individuals.
While the senior men’s team has been Kamanga’s Achilles heel, he has been hugely successful with the women team that is two fixtures away from qualifying to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The women’s game has experienced something of a revolutionary march with Zambia coming out second at the 2019 Cosafa Women championship and added that with a dream run in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics qualifiers. Should Zambia fail to overcome Cameroon, they will still have a chance to battle for qualification with a play-off with Chile.
The junior women teams have equally been on a surge with their 2019 exploits in the region setting the tempo for the 2020 FIFA World Cup campaigns. The under-20 girls were Cosafa runners up while the under-17 emerged third. In 2020 both teams are looking to give World Cup qualification a shot. The women game is firmly in the surge and is turning out to be Kamanga’s signature achievement.
Kamanga has equally been successful with junior teams having recruited a youthful Technical Director in Lyson Zulu. The United Kingdom trained Zulu has taken a hands on approach to junior teams and set up a strong grassroots structure that has so far seen the under-17 boys reap the second Cosafa gold medal.
Zambia lifted its first ever under-17 Cosafa in 2017 in Mauritius and has added two gold medals under Kamanga in that bracket. The junior teams’ success also manifested itself in the under-20 winning the Cosafa championship in 2019 on home soil, adding a second gold medal for this age bracket under Kamanga.
The Cosafa success was also scored at senior level with the Chipolopolo lifting it after having appeared in three consecutive finals.
Zambia has also become a permanent participant at the CHAN having qualified for the 2018 finals in Morocco where they exited at the quarterfinal stage. The Chipolopolo have also qualified for the 2020 CHAN to be hosted by Cameroon in April.
Zambia has not been completely absent on the CAF roster with the under-23 also having qualified to the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
The Zambian league has maintained its high ranking on the African continent perched at a respectable sixth position.
Locally, the Kamanga executive has re-negotiated the MTN sponsorship deal to guarantee all the teams a minimum of K200,000. Previously teams used to get as low as K7,000.
Kamanga has also clinched sponsorship for an 18-team national division one which has Eden University as the sponsor.