Analysis: ALEX NJOVU
FORMER President Rupiah Banda did not mince his words when he recently described newly refurbished Vodafone Woodlands Stadium in Lusaka as a world-class sports facility that must be protected from acts of vandalism.
And Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) president Andrew Kamanga’s call for Super Division side City of Lusaka fans to support progressive ideas is timely; we must all embrace and rally behind developer Diego Casilli in his quest to develop the beautiful game in Zambia. Mr Banda toured Vodafone Woodlands Stadium recently and expressed his delight at the modern infrastructure that has been developed. City is one of the oldest clubs in Zambia, having been founded in 1937 and it is good that the club, one of the pioneers of the game in the region, has a modern stadium which is hosting international matches. Even before the stadium is fully completed and commissioned, the venue is also ready to host cup games such as the lucrative annual Barclays Cup. The history of Zambian football is incomplete without mentioning City, famously known by its fans as Yamoto. The move by Casilli to inject about US$4 million into the redevelopment and refurbishment of the stadium is a good one that will go a long way in enhancing football development in the region. There can never be significant football development without proper infrastructure development. Today, Vodafone Woodlands Stadium is one of the finest sports facilities in the country after National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka, which has a 60,000 seating capacity and Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola, which ‘swallows’ about 50,000 fans. Woodlands Stadium ‘carries’ over 14, 000 fans. It was a good sight for everyone at Yamoto to see the stadium full to capacity during the international friendly between Zambia and Ethiopia on August 5 and we would like to commend Football House for the opportunity to host the match. The call, therefore, by the former President to safeguard the facility from any destruction is timely. Vandalism slows development and impacts negatively on the country’s development. City might not be doing well on the pitch but we can boast of one thing – a world-class sports facility that has changed the face of Lusaka. It was interesting to see Ethiopian players and officials taking selfies during a training session and after the game and declared that the stadium is “Magnificent”. Casilli’s love of the game is unquestionable; some of us who are privileged to sit with him in meetings, understand his passion for the club. He wants Yamoto to excel. In fact his target is to see the 1964 League Champions reach the pinnacle of the game. Casilli’s target is to see ‘our’ players sign lucrative deals with better European teams. His recent move to bring experienced Italian trainers in Roberto Landi and Giuseppe Macca to work closely with coach Hector Chilombo, Davy Musole, Lennox Changala and David Chirwa demonstrates his commitment to the club. The two Europeans have managed the game at the very top and will surely bring another dimension to our game. They have been collectively tasked to save City from going down. The City fraternity must, therefore, support the development at the stadium. Any misunderstanding can always be addressed in a civilized and cordial manner without disrupting development. Indeed, all City fans must heed the call by the FAZ boss, Kamanga, for us to rally behind progressive ideas. Kamanga toured the facility last week and immediately ‘fell in love’ with the structure. He assured the City hierarchy that FAZ is ready to take some international matches to Woodlands. Kamanga is right in calling for oneness among City faithful. The mere upgrading and refurbishing of the stadium to international standards must make all City fans walk with their heads high knowing that they have one of the best sports facilities in the region. The focus for all of us now, the club executive committee led by president Justine Zulu, Board of Trustees chaired by madam Christine Mulundika, the developer Casilli, the fans and other stakeholders should be towards the team’s performance on the pitch. The team must remain in the Super Division at all costs. The players must ‘die a little’ for the legendary club. On his part, Casilli has told the players that once the team moves out of the drop zone, flying safely, in the middle of the table, each player will be given K 10, 000 as a bonus for their hard work. He has also increased the players’ salaries and has put other incentives on the table to save Yamoto from going into the doldrums. The club will, August 26, hold its extra-ordinary non- elective annual general meeting at which it will adopt a new constitution which is allied to the FAZ requirements, and members are encouraged to renew their 2017 membership for them to be eligible to attend the gathering. ‘United We Stand, Divided We Fall’.The author is City of Lusaka Football Club executive committee member and club communications manager.