All is well that ends well


Soccer Review with STEPHEN PHIRI
HATS off to the national team for qualifying for the 2018 Kenya African Nations Championship (CHAN) finals, the second tier competition on the continent.

That cop, inspector Justin Shonga, accounted for a brace in the second half that saw Zambia destroy and effectively eliminate our boisterous distant neighbours South Africa at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola last Saturday to advance 4-2 on aggregate. I hope Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja won’t promote him to commissioner for sports!
I do not want to attribute the team’s success to any particular individual but suffice to mention that coach Wedson Nyirenda deserves more respect from all stakeholders.
He seems to be the least appreciated national team coach in recent years. He is booed by people masquerading as soccer fans when, in fact, they are thugs trying to earn a drop of Chibuku.
He is threatened with dismissal by all and sundry even when the most basic ingredient in the game is evidently not sufficient. I know that Zambians love victory – which is okay – but we should sometimes be realistic and measure our expectations accordingly.
Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) president Andrew Kamanga, Nyirenda and the players deserve as much respect as they are able to give other stakeholders – fans, government, sponsors and, of course, the media. None of these are peripheral.
Nyirenda has been coach of the national team for hardly a year and yet people want to claim to have the birth right for qualifications for major championships. They want him to mould champions from losers. Perhaps that’s his role but I can tell you for a fact that for the kind of league we have, qualifying for CHAN is almost a miracle of the trinity of Daniel, Shadreck and Abednego scale.
We do not compare favourably with the likes of Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, South Africa and reigning champions Democratic Republic of Congo, who failed to qualify.
Without wanting to sound as if I am blowing his trumpet, I am convinced that Wada, as Nyirenda is called, is equal to the task unless one is looking for the Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola and Alex Ferguson class.
We all need to support Wada to the hilt.
But Nyirenda should also understand how to manage his image if he is to be a brand generally acceptable by all stakeholders. He should not put on airs which may distance him from fans.
Back to the main subject; need I tell anyone that preparations should start in earnest?
We should not go to Kenya to participate; we must go to win the championship. No apologies, but anything less will not be classified as an achievement.
But it will not be easy when one considers this line-up: Angola, Burkina Faso, Congo Brazzaville, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Uganda and hosts Kenya.
With a few more sharp strikers like Shonga and those with the heart like Isaac Shamujompa and passion like Toaster Nsabata, we can conquer Africa. My “damn good” friends at FAZ should arrange serious friendlies. Please, I don’t mean playing the Seychelles of Guyana here, I am talking about the likes of Brazil, Cameroon, Nigeria, Spain etc.
Well done Kamanga, Wada and my good friends – the fans.
Let’s talk football and catch me,

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