AFCON Miss an Opportunity to Galvanize for Qatar 2022
Dear members of the football family. Firstly, it would be a grave injustice to get on with this week’s column without referring to the events of last week that culminated into Zambia’s elimination from the race for the Cameroon 2021 Africa Cup of Nations. It is no doubt a painful experience for any soccer loving person in our country and lovers of the Chipolopolo beyond our borders. We had done everything possible to ensure that we secure victory on Thursday against African champions Algeria on our own turf. Unfortunately, a 3-3 draw meant that we could not make it to the Cameroon 2021 AFCON (to be played in 2022).
In reflecting on this failure, we cannot avoid regretting that we started the campaign without a substantive coach in place which saw us lose the first two matches against Algeria away (5-0) and against Zimbabwe (2-1). Our efforts to recruit a coach suffered serious resistance leaving us to rely on our local coaches that oversaw the first two matches. Midway through the campaign we eventually found a coach and we have been shaking up things since then. It is never easy taking the stewardship of any team midway through a campaign as tough as the Africa Cup of Nations. Not having a coach in place may not have been the only reason for the AFCON qualification crash but also at times we did not dig deep enough at times on the pitch when the situation demanded. There were times when everything humanly possible was done to ensure that we get a positive result, but our performance came short on the pitch. We have been long enough in football to appreciate the three possible outcomes. We believe with this experience we can rally our players and everyone to mount a formidable challenge for World Cup qualification.
Today our team is in Harare to complete the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in a fight for pride contest. With the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers on the horizon, we shall use the Zimbabwe match as the first step towards preparations for that important target. The technical bench has carried our best players for this assignment as part of ensuring that we continue refining the team. Zambia is in Group B alongside Tunisia, Mauritania and Equatorial Guinea. Group toppers will qualify to the final round where they will face off in a two-legged knock-out contest.
With what we saw against Algeria, we believe that with some adjustments in some departments we can assemble a team that can take us to Qatar in 2022.
Off the pitch, we had a high-powered delegation from Zurich that inducted my executive committee in various aspects of management of the game. The FIFA delegation also opened-up on the various opportunities open for Member Associations like the infrastructural projects that FAZ is already utilizing through rehabilitation of provincial stadia. Participants were also made aware of the stringent control measures that FIFA demands for every resource given out to members. It is such efforts that will lay the ground for our football in line with our 10-year strategic plan.
Finally, let me wish the Chipolopolo all the best in today’s encounter against Zimbabwe that will be signalling our intentions for the forthcoming FIFA World Cup campaign. I end with this instructive quote from Confucius, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
Have a pleasant week and stay safe!