FOOTBALL Association of Zambia (FAZ) president Kalusha Bwalya believes African champions, Zambia has the quality to reach the 2013 Orange Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals and defend its title in South Africa.
Speaking in an interview after witnessing the draws for the final qualifying round in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Thursday night which pitted Zambia against Uganda, Kalusha said the Chipolopolo had the character to qualify for the 29th edition of the AFCON finals.
He said the continental champions had good players and a coach with the abilities to face any challenges.
Kalusha, who represented Zambia during the draws held at Tanz Café at the luxurious Emperors Palace, said it was his hope that the Chipolopolo would beat Uganda in the two-legged qualifier and progress to the final round before sailing through to the finals to defend the crown.
He, however, said Uganda was no push-over and Zambia knew their quality after facing them in the Central and East African Football Association competition.
And the Confederation of African Football (CAF) first vice-president, Suketu Patel said the hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup left a tremendous legacy on South Africa and that CAF did not even need to inspect the facilities for the AFCON.
Patel said the 2010 World Cup legacy prompted CAF to give South Africa the right to stage the 2013 AFCON finals after Libya was stripped because of the political crisis in that country.
The South Africa Local Organising Committee assured Africa that they would deliver a high-class AFCON next year, exceeding the expectations of many.
South African Sports Minister, Filile Mbalula said the country had the responsibility to show the world that it could organise a successful sports spectacle.
The ceremony, which was spiced up with a performance from South African platinum winning singer, Zahara, was attended by CAF executive members, representatives from most participating countries, Nigerian coach Stephen Keshi, Sudanese trainer Mohamed Abdallah and South Africa's newly-recruited coach, Gordon Igesund, among several dignitaries.
The 2013 AFCON, whose final draws would be held in October, would be staged in Durban, Rustenburg, Nelspruit, Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg between January 19 and February 10.
Meanwhile, Zambia Voluntary Soccer Fans Association patron Peter Makembo has welcomed the pairing of Zambia with Uganda, saying the 'Cranes' should ask Ghana about the kind of support to expect when they travel to Ndola's Levy Mwanawasa Stadium.
He said in an interview in Lusaka yesterday that fans would fill up the stadium and blow their trumpets (vuvuzelas) louder than they did against Ghana to spur the Chipolopolo to victory.
"We are ready for any opposition. In fact we respect Uganda, but we only fear Spain because those are in the same class of football with us as compared to Uganda.
"Uganda should ask Ghana, we will be blowing our trumpets the loudest and in fact we shall come in full force," Makembo said.
He urged the players to beat the Cranes by a big margin to avoid dropping points in the return leg in Kampala.