The Times are Changing, but Things Remain the Same

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar December 11, 2018 10:28

The Times are Changing, but Things Remain the Same

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (December 11th 2018)

Almost seven years ago I interviewed Zambia’s then Sports Minister, Chishimba Kambwili. He and Zambian football were on the rise then. Kambwili made pledges about the Gabon Plane Crash, claiming that Michael Sata’s government was the government of ‘open government’ and that the report would definitely be released to the Zambian public. President Sata died n October 2014 with the promise unfulfilled.

Kambwili contested the vacant leadership of the Patriotic Front, losing to Edgar Lungu. Kambwili became Minister of Communications under Lungu in 2016. The promise remained unfulfilled even though President Lungu had once legally represented the families of the victims of the Gabon Plane Crash.

Lungu sent Kambwili to the backbenches a year later. He didn’t take it well, but remains popular in his base in the Copper Belt. He left the PF and says the opposition National Democratic Congress invited him to stand at the next election for them. Kambwili says he has not joined the NDC, but was recently arrested in Zambia accused of inciting the public against the government.

Kambwili’s descent from power has been mirrored by the fortunes of the Chipolopolo. Riding high on the crest of success, Kambwili bemoaned the fact that Zambian football had been ignored by scouts with one exception – the then great hope of Zambian football, Emmanuel Mayuka, but his career plummeted too.

“Zambia is a footballing nation and I’m extremely concerned that most of the scouts from Europe do not focus onto Southern Africa, Zambia in particular,” Kambwili said.

“We’ve got great players in Zambia, but I don’t know why that most of our players only play in the South African leagues and definitely the only one playing in Europe right now is [Emmanuel] Mayuka.

Even Mayuka was not spotted early, despite playing from an early age in Zambia.

“Mayuka started playing football from a tender age, but because the youth programme is not so much spoken about and it’s not so much established,” Kambwili explained.

“We only learned about him when he played for Kabwe Warriors, but we know he played for a smaller, smaller club based in Lusaka which are not very well organised in their finances.”

But Mayuka was given a chance at Southampton and failed to impress. His career has been nomadic since then, eventually arriving back in Africa. Now his descent from the summit of Zambian football complete, Mayuka is without a club.

Kambwili believed that Zambia deserved more respect in football circles.

“That’s what I’m saying; that’s what I’m saying,” Kambwili said.

“There’s not a lot of publicity’s been done on the Zambian team.

“If you look at the quality of players that we have, we deserve to have so many players playing in big leagues, but because there’s very little publicity done on Zambia – most of the publicity in Africa is done on the North and the West Africa – I can only urge the scouts to also come to the southern parts of Africa.

“For instance, today we have Angola coming up as a footballing nation very well; we have South Africa; we have Zambia; we have Botswana coming on; we have Zimbabwe, but also the scouts have concentrated in the North and West of Africa.”

It’s almost seven years since Christopher Katongo, now an Assistant coach at Green Buffaloes, lifted the AFCON trophy for the first and only time in Zambian history. The following year a re-organisation in the tournament saw Nigeria become African champions. Consequently, the Chipolopolo missed out on The Confederations Cup in Brasil. Ironically, Spain were both World and European champions, so Italy played despite winning nothing.

The Chipolopolo were never the same after that win, and failed to qualify for the last two AFCONs. Despite getting a horrid World Cup qualifying group and coming close to making it to Russia, the AFCON qualifying group showed how far the Chipolopolo had fallen, despite the emergence of bright young talents – one of whom, Patson Daka, is the reigning CAF Young Player of the year.

Both the Under-17s and Under-20s won African titles, but the senior team crashed out of AFCON qualification with a match to spare – the only team eliminated from the group that contained Namibia, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau – a failure former Zambia, national team coach, Wedson Nyirenda, insisted was inexcusable.

No Excuse Says Nyirenda

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar December 11, 2018 10:28