For months now Chipolopolo coach Wedson Nyirenda has been bombarded with demands that he features U-20 stars in any of the high profile games the senior national team plays. Nyirenda has preached caution but no one has seriously rendered his misgivings about the fast track transition of the U-20 to the senior national team.
There has been whirlwind excitement about the almost infallible status that the U-20 attained in the aftermath of Africa Cup glory and FIFA U-20 World Cup quarterfinal feat. It is almost as if the lads are just supposed to just make an appearance on the pitch and there will be some form of magical transformation in the national team. Well that chance has come and knowing the fickle nature of the Zambian fans they could very easily boo those lads if they fail to perform.
Do not bet on the fans cheering when even the esteemed Fashion Sakala, Enock Mwepu and Patson Daka fall short of the big stage as the same fans could boo the lads. Few have been willing to heed the advice of having these teenage stars be under studied by senior players in the meantime but the mantra has been to throw them in the deep end of the swimming pool.
There could not have been a sterner test than the FIFA World Cup glory than against perennial continental flag bearers in Algeria. Any follower of the game will know that Algeria places a very high premium on World Cup qualification and hence raising the stakes in the back to back fixtures due on September 2 and 5.
Understandably the results at senior level have not been smooth but that should not have been the license to discard the bulk of the senior players.
While players like Collins Mbesuma, Jacob Mulenga and Isaac Chansa may not have any business leading the Chipolopolo attack they could still be roped in to provide some mentorship role. Was not Patson Daka’s national team career killed in its infancy after he was ‘rushed’ into the senior team with fans booing him?
While we are at the U-20 romance story let us be mindful of the limitations that may be natural to teenage stars pushed in a men’s game.
Good luck Zambia!