PRESIDENT’S CORNER: Qatar World Cup Chase Begins
The road to the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers is upon us this week. It is a moment we have waited for a long time, having initially been scheduled for the June FIFA window. The Covid-19 situation necessitated the postponement to September, and we finally get the opportunity to compete. We have never stopped preparing from the time the draws were out. Our team was one of the few on the continent to have had friendly matches during the June FIFA window travelling to Senegal, Benin, and Sudan. The Chipolopolo also had a taste of action during the 2021 Cosafa Cup in Port Elizabeth. While the World Cup is a notch higher than any of the preparatory matches held, we have made sure that the team gets enough preparations and are in the final stages of a 10-day international camp in Morocco. We are conscious of the hurdles that the Covid-19 presents but, on our part, we have done our best to keep the team in good shape.
The 10-day camp in Marrakech has been partly to help the team acclimatize to similar weather conditions in Mauritania and easy accessibility for our Europe based players. Our England based duo of Enock Mwepu (Brighton Albion) and Patson Daka (Leicester) are the latest to join camp after Clatous Chama had joined on Friday. Others that have been in action for their clubs will fly directly to Mauritania where we play that country on Friday. Our team will fly out of Nouakchott immediately after the match to be in good time for the September 7, 2021, home match against Tunisia in Ndola.
We also await guidance from FIFA on whether we will have our England based players for the home match as Zambia is on the red list on the global Covid-19 watch. We will duly update the nation on the guidance from FIFA.
We are grateful to government for having opened the gates for a limited number of fans for the September 7 home match against Tunisia. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has however, restricted the number to 5, 000. We are still in talks with CAF to explore the possibility of bumping up this number as Covid-19 incidences in our country have greatly reduced. We urge members of the football family to embrace the Covid-19 vaccine as it would increase our chances of having spectators at our matches including the local league.
Finally, we urge the fans to rally behind the team as it starts the chase for a dream World Cup appearance. Our aim is to start strongly in the opening matches and set the tone for the whole campaign. We are confident that our team can tap into the prevailing spirit of renewal in our country to gift the public with a winning start. We wish the team the best of luck in the road to Qatar.
Have a productive week and remember to observe all the Covid-19 guidelines.