Sport

Zambia’s 2012 AFCON Success: Is Kambwili’s Claim True?

When a Republican president and some of its ministers behave in a certain manner to mislead unsuspecting citizens, it calls for responsibility to realign such carelessness to avert a potential crisis that risk plunging the country into irreversible chaos.

Sports minister Chishimba Kambwili last week took to what every Zambian including himself must respect – the floor of the National Assembly – in a situation that made for some interesting but sad reflection.

Kambwili went to parliament and made a statement in the usual deceitful Patriotic Front style falsely claiming Zambia’s Africa Cup of Nations triumph was to the ruling party’s credit.

He additionally, again, falsely accused the MMD of interfering in football – a statement that was backed by some disgruntled FAZ official. That behaviour falls short of identifying such leaders as credible to handle national affairs. They support anything, anyhow and anywhere, even without substance. That is why opposition UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema can’t be blamed for describing their leader as someone without a plan, a description that fits such misguided characters as Kambwili.

Fortunately, Zambians are not short of information and while Parliament did not remedy Kambwili’s falsehoods, there is a need to bring them into perspective.

When the PF was campaigning for the September 2011 elections, they set a 90-day theory to deliver to Zambians and in-turn they got the chance to govern. It’s as simple as things stand. Nothing scientific. Kambwili’s PF knew that the Africa Cup will be played in January 2012, shortly after their widely publicised but deceptive 90-day development theory.

No one in the PF had promised to win the Africa Cup title for the first time in the history of Zambia as part of their campaign promise.

What they told Zambians were blatant lies of curbing high unemployment levels, introducing economic reforms, restoring the Barotseland Agreement, improving the energy sector and intensifying the fight against corruption all of which they have lamentably failed to honour.

Winning the Africa Cup was not one of the promises. And to hear Kambwili rise on the Parliamentary floor and despicably claim Chipolopolo success belongs to PF shows the levels of hypocrisy imbued in these fellows. A clear case of seeking a harvest where they didn’t sow.

It is a fact that when Zambia was winning the title on February 12, 2012, the PF government had only been in office for four months. No team, not even Spain, can win a competitive football competition in this short period. It takes years of hard work and investment.

Even if Zambia was to retain the 2013 Africa Cup, it will not be the credit of Kambwili who may be a good student of what it takes for a team to win major titles.

There is no dispute former president Rupiah Banda attempted to help the crisis that rocked Football House which came as a result of corrupt management of the game.

That corruption is there at Football House today and is even worse under the PF government. People like Kambwili are happy with the corruption because they probably are beneficiaries of Africa Cup of Nations proceeds and this explains why there are complaints about players receiving peanuts.

Rupiah, for all his ills, was concerned with the management of the game, which Kambwili is clueless about. Any head of state in Rupiah’s position at the time of the FAZ confusion could not have given it a blind eye.

If Kambwili claims that the MMD interfered in football, would he allow – for instance Kalusha – to be both FAZ president and national team technical director against the provision of the body’s constitution?

This answer was given by a senior Zambian lawyer Dr Julius Sakala when he was sports council chairman and successive boards have had to challenge illegalities perpetrated by
Kalusha and those that suck up to him at Football House. No wonder his follows could allow him to borrow US $26, 000 in such an absurd agreement where he displayed shocking ignorance about his capacity to handle a simple agreement.

Nonetheless, to Kambwili holding dual roles by Kalusha will be good even when the writing is in black and white.

Rupiah, as an individual, made better contribution to Zambia’s triumph at the Africa Cup of Nations than Kambwili and the PF combined.

Many agree that the players’ spirited fight was key to giving Zambia the first title, nothing to do with the PF rhetoric.

Rupiah and one of his former minister Dr Christopher Kalila are credited for making personal contribution to Zambia’s gold-winning first 11 with players from their football academies among them Hichani Himoonde, Davies Nkausu (Chiparamba), Rainford Kalaba and Stophilla Sunzu (Afrisports). Dr Kalila founded Afrisports just like Rupiah did with Chiparamba whose players were key to the team’s success.

When Herve Renard wanted to abandon the Chipolopolo mid-way through the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, it was Rupiah who mobilised funds to pay his salary with FQM coming on board.

This was after Renard guided Zambia to the third place finish of the inaugural 2009 African Nations Championship (CHAN). Kalusha and his executive had engaged a coach whom they failed to pay until Rupiah stepped in.

It is not a secret that when Renard decided to leave after reaching the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinal, Rupiah personally asked the Frenchman to stay on and guide Zambia to the 2012 finals, a request he turned down, opting for oil-rich Angola where he failed to tick.

The arrival of Italian Dario Bonetti was only a continuation of government’s assistance to Football House. Of course, Kalusha would have wanted to bring a coach that was going to guarantee him what international football conmen have come to describe as “finders fee.” If Kalusha had engaged Bonetti, the Italian would have been at the helm when Zambia was winning the Africa Cup in Gabon.

Interestingly, Kalusha signed the contract that made Bonetti coach although what was missing was a guarantee of the “finders fee”. Perhaps, it was another ‘blank piece of paper’ the celebrated Zambian football king signed.

Kambwili should know that when the Auditor General finds serious irregularities in the management of FAZ financial accounts, the Zambian government will not give the situation a blind eye. Just like they are funding the team’s expenses with taxpayers, they will be called to account for the people’s funds when queries are made.

It is actually embarrassing for the PF to try and hide in the MMD’s hard work for the success of the national team.

Zambia’s journey to the Africa Cup triumph in 2012 was as a result of a lot of hard work over 10 years, as old as the PF, as a political party. That was only reinforced by the Gabon destiny – the site of Zambia’s saddest football memory turning into the base of joyous moments. No single entity, not even Renard, can claim sole glory from Chipolopolo’s success. It was a combination of factors that had little or nothing to do with Kambwili and the PF.

The opening match against Senegal ending in a 2-1 victory accounted for a morale-boosting win, the team grew in confidence and stature going on to exhibit incredible determination and hard work.

Team unity, which was as a result of a consistent Chipolopolo spurning a decade, was visible throughout the tournament. There was no big star. Everyone, including captain Christopher Katongo, treated each other at the same level.

Team-work became the cornerstone of that success hugely anchored on the experience majority of the players had gathered at previous Africa Cup of Nations.

Seeing off pre-tournament favourite Senegal, a spirited 2-all draw against Libya in what turned out to be a mud-splash after a thunderstorm and a 1-0 victory over co-host Equatorial Guinea tripled Chipolopolo’s confidence.

The writing was on the wall. Their declaration that the outing was to honour the heroes (1993 Gabon air disaster victims) become a reality rather than the rhetoric that goes with any showdown.

Inasmuch as destiny, fate and emotions encompassed the atmosphere leading to the Africa Cup triumph, the story of the Zambian team is one built on experience.

Majority of the key players in the team were appearing at the tournament for the fourth time in their football career. They had become accustomed to the competition and atmosphere.

This is what lacked in the star-studded Senegal side that were not at the 2010 competition.

Katongo and his little brother Felix were part of the Zambian Africa Cup team in Egypt 2006 so was Joseph Musonda, Mweene, Isaac Chansa, Clifford Mulenga and James Chamanga.

They were among the first batch of players that graduated from an Under-23 national football team that neared a 1988 Olympic side comprising Kalusha with an attempt at the 2004 Olympics Games only stopped by Ghana in Kumasi.

Kaumba had built a strong base of youth players with Noah Chivuta – a member of the gold medalists on the substitutes bench – as captain.

The concentration on strengthening youth structure by former FAZ president Evaristo Kasunga later picked up by his successor Teddy Mulonga delivered the Africa Cup under the leadership of Kalusha.

This success at the Africa Cup of Nations although covered in emotions did not start three months before that epic feat, or better still two years back. Hard-working Zambian football coaches were called to nurture the 2012 heroes at youth level before delivering them to the senior side where they conquered the continent.

Take the heart of Zambia’s midfield, Rainford Kalaba, Clifford Mulenga and Davis Nkausu. The trio was part of an admirable Under-17 side in 2002 that Simataa Simataa assembled for continental competitions only to lose out to Gambia in the qualifiers.

Then came the Under-23 team under Kaumba and George Lwandamina’s 2007 FIFA Under 20 World Cup team that reached the round of 16.

The firm central partnership of Stopphila Sunzu and Hichani Himoonde did not start yesterday neither the linkage of Isaac Chansa and Katongo.

Sunzu and Himoonde had matured into an astute combination while at Under-20 while golden boot winner Emmanuel Mayuka benefited from two Africa Cup of Nations and the 2007 Under-20 World Cup to grow into the quality that shone at the recent competition.

On this score, it is a fallacy for Kamwbili to claim AFCON success when statistics suggest otherwise. That is the more reason when falsehood rears its head into public discourse irrespective of the sector, it must be challenge to prevent excessive reactions.

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