SO much has been said about Zambia’s failure to qualify to the Africa Cup finals again.
Much as the failure to qualify for the AfCON finals is so painful for us soccer lovers, it is difficult to understand which world the minister of Lusaka Province lives in. And this makes it very difficult to appreciate his lopsided point of view on this matter.
We understand the difficulty Mr Lusambo has in accepting his government’s share of the blame in all this. But facts are facts. The government has a huge share of responsibility in the failure of our national team since 2017. The government that once cut the winning bonus for the qualifiers from US $3,500 to $1,500 per player when we were competing against teams like Algeria, for example, who give their players $15,000 as winning bonus.
We know that Mr Lusambo has more often than not blamed every Chipolopolo failure on one man, Andrew Kamanga. But not just that, he has never liked Kamanga being in charge of Football House, anyway. And Lusambo has always called for Kamanga’s removal like we saw on his Facebook postings in the run-up to the elective annual general meeting in Livingstone. Well, we saw reactions from his followers. Needless to say, his anti-FAZ postings always put the whole government in very bad position with majority of people. And one wonders if the minister’s stance is the official government position since no one above him counters his hugely faulty judgments on this matter.
When minister Lusambo claims that tax payer’s money is being wasted on FAZ and Chipolopolo, he must know that this FAZ has spent more of its money on the operations of the national teams than government has. Does minister Lusambo know that FAZ pays the current national team coach more money than his government? For those who are in doubt, government contributes $10,000 towards Micho’s $25,000 salary while FAZ puts in $15,000 of that amount.
During the just ended qualifiers, especially the last two games, Chipolopolo players were promised a combined total of $15,000 dollars each if they won the two matches. And government was to offer $7,000 of that amount with FAZ staking $8,000. But the players failed to win against Algeria and we saw the manner in which we drew that match before going to win in Zimbabwe.
Now those that sing from minister Lusambo’s anti-Kamanga hymn book claim that FAZ receives a monthly grant from the government. Again, that position is not correct. The last time I checked the audited financial reports of FAZ, there is no page where this government grant reflects. And when I asked why, for example, there is no mention of government grants in the latest financial reports, an official told me, “we don’t report what we don’t receive.”
But that is beside the point, minister Lusambo’s government made it very difficult for FAZ to succeed. Take for example, government’s opposition to the employment of the national team coach. We all saw how government blatantly declined to accept the employment of a coach which led to starting the qualifiers without a substantive coach and eventually took us to where we are today. To date, I have never heard a government minister including Mr Lusambo himself congratulate the women national football team on their monumental qualification to the Olympics for the first time in history. Could it be that I just missed it? But what I remember is that the only appreciation they got was a luncheon at the home of Andrew Kamanga.
We can go on and on, but the truth is that the nation has seen how every positive move that Kamanga’s executive has tried to make, has been countered with double the negative energy from some stakeholders, sadly government is guilt of that.
Remember that the very first time Kamanga beat Kalusha Bwalya in 2016, the people that are siding with Mr Lusambo today called for his impeachment, immediately he was declared winner that night, before he even stepped foot on Football House grounds. Those of us who were there heard it with our own ears, to date they are saying the same thing.
The last CHAN competition is such an example where government did not spend a coin from qualifiers to the actual tournament in Cameroon. They also failed to accompany the team at the tournament, the only team without a government representative. Fact! Even when Kamanga goes out of his way to get his money, thousands of dollars to help the association and the national team when government fails, that has landed him in problems; police and DEC are set on him. Really?
I think the Lusaka province minister and the government must come to terms with the fact that Kamanga is FAZ president and the Chipolopolo is the national team and not his. Therefore, the team needs government support as we start World Cup qualifiers. For I believe if all of us rally behind the team with all our energies, we shall conquer.
The failure of Chipolopolo is very painful, very painful but it has also taught us lessons from which we can draw right conclusions, bury the hatchet and rise again as a united force. I repeat, all the 18 million of us are stakeholders in this enterprise called Zambia; it’s not for the selected or favoured few. See you in June against Mauritania!