FRANCIS CHIPALO writes
ALL roads will this evening lead to the Best Western Plus Lusaka Grand Hotel, formerly (Golden Bridge Hotel) opposite Zesco head office in Lusaka for a public discussion on the performance of the Chipolopolo Boys.
The discussion which has been sponsored by the Daily Nation Newspaper Limited is focused on the national soccer team with the topic; National Football team, what is the way forward?
The discussion which can be likened to an indaba for soccer brings together all stakeholders involved with the Zambia national football team.
According to the invite sent by the organizers, major speakers will include the government which will be presented by the Ministry of Sport, Youth and Child development, the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) and the Zambian Football Coaches Association.
Other speakers expected to take part in the discussion include the Zambia Sports Fans Associations (ZASPOFA) and the Footballers Allied Workers among others.
The meeting comes at such a time when a number of stakeholders have raised concern over the poor performance of the national soccer team especially the senior squad currently under the tutelage of Sven Ludwig Vandenbroek a Belgian football coach and former player.
Vandenbroeck took up the Chipolopolo Boys top job in July 2018 and replaced Wedson Nyirenda who resigned in May to join South African side Baroka FC.
Before being appointed as coach by the Andrew Kamanga-led FAZ executive, Vandenbroek was assistant coach for Cameroon when they won the 2017 African Cup of Nations.
Vandenbroek’s first task was qualifying Zambia to this year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Cameron but has since failed to do so as the team stands bottom of Group K with 4 points and 4 points behind joint group leaders Guinea-Bissau and Namibia as the latter tops the group on goal difference after five games.
Mozambique is third on the group with 7 points.
At the time of appointing Vandenbroek, FAZ secretary general Adrian Kashala said; “We have confidence that he should be able to deliver to the expectations of FAZ, the team and people of Zambia”.
But on the contrary, Vandenbroek has brought more sadness to soccer lovers than what was expected of him.
His contract runs up to March this year but the Belgian has expressed willingness to continue as Zambia coach when he rolled out his plans for Zambia at press briefing held at Football House last week.
The Chipolopolo Boys brought glory to Zambia when the team under Frenchman Herve Renard won the AfCON for the first time in the country’s history in 2012 when Kalusha Bwalya was president of FAZ.
However, the team has since 2012 failed to qualify to major soccer tournaments and therefore, tonight’s discussion is timely.
It is however not clear as to whether Bwalya who had his recent ban lifted from soccer activities by world soccer governing body FIFA on allegations of unethical conduct would be among the speakers.
Back in August, Fifa banned Bwalya – then a Confederation of African Football (CAF) executive committee member for accepting a gift which violated Fifa’s code of ethics.
This followed an investigation into his links to banned Qatari official Mohammed Bin Hammam. But the former FAZ boss has always denied any wrongdoing.
On Monday last week, Fifa said its appeal panel had reduced Bwalya’s ban to the time he had already served, while his fine was also cut to 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,090) from 100,000 Swiss francs ($100,900) which is about K120, 000.
Bwalya said he was happy and relieved to be back in the game and he thanked those who had supported him. Bwalya is now free to participate in football matters, especially for his country, which needs help having struggled of late.
Bwalya, having been a player, coach and administrator at the highest level, should play an important role so that the glory days are back.
His return to the game is believed to have unsettled the current FAZ regime although the former 1988 continental player of the year has not indicated as to whether he was interested or not to get involved in local football administration.
Lusaka province Minister Bowman Lusambo who offered to pay Bwalay’s fine said the coming back of the Zambian legend into the fold means that the nation and the rest of Africa can again benefit from his unrivaled expertise in football administration.
As for now, let us wait and see what comes out of tonight’s meeting as the future of Zambia football remains at a big question mark!