Zambia: Jacob Wins Renard's Heart

CHIPOLOPOLO coach Herve Renard is excited with striker Jacob Mulenga's tip top form at his FC Utrecht side in Holland, where he has scored thrice since his long injury lay-off which saw him miss the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.

Renard told MTNFootball.com that he hoped Mulenga would stay in good health to make the 2013 Africa Cup team.

The 28-year-old Dutch-based striker has played 270 minutes since mid-October, scoring three goals in that period in his first season back after a long-term injury layoff.

Mulenga also missed Zambia's return leg of the 2013 Africa Cup qualifier against Uganda on October 13 due to a family bereavement.

"He needed time to come back after his big injury. It was for this reason that he was not part of the game when we played at home against Uganda (in October).

"He was not fit enough and maybe he didn't have enough confidence. I am always in touch with him and to congratulate him. It is very good news for us," Renard said.

He said Mulenga's return would ease his options in the frontline, adding that it was always interesting for a coach to manage tactically during a game when provided with differently profiled players.

"Jacob has a different profile. We don't have a lot of players like him in Zambia. He is very strong, very fast, that means he will be very important for us.

"I hope he will stay fit until the Africa Cup like this. We are very happy to see him back."

Mulenga was named in Renard's 24-member squad to face Bafana-Bafana in the Nelson Mandela Challenge at Soccer City next Wednesday.

And the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) has, apart from next week's Mandela Challenge match against South Africa, organised an international friendly match against Norway set for January 12 in Ndola.

FAZ spokesperson Erick Mwanza yesterday said the association had lined up two other international friendly matches for the African champions, who kick off their title defence against Ethiopia on January 21 at Mbombela Stadium.

Mwanza said the Chipolopolo would have the best training programme unlike the one they had going into the 2012 AFCON finals co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

On the Mandela Challenge, Mwanza said hotel doors open this weekend although the full squad would be expected by Monday after the players feature for their respective clubs.

He said the team would train for 48 hours as a unit before the game.

The January 12 friendly match would see the Chipolopolo, who would already have assembled at their training base in South Africa, fly into Ndola for the match against Norway and return to their camp to continue with preparations.

Mwanza said Renard would have the advantage of having most of his stars around for the South Africa camp because their leagues would have closed.

He said players from China, DR Congo and South African Premier Soccer League would also be on recess, meaning that Zambian players would be available for the camping except for striker Emmanuel Mayuka, whose Southampton side would be active in the English Premier League.

Mwanza also said FAZ was in negotiations with Southampton to have football exchange programmes.

And FAZ has announced that it will not hand over the MTN Premier League crown to the winners due to logistical problems as contenders Power Dynamos and Zanaco would be playing in Lusaka and in Kitwe, respectively.

Mwanza said there was no logistical plan in this season's budget to have a helicopter hovering between Arthur Davies and Sunset where Nkana would play Zanaco and Red Arrows would host Power, respectively.

Multi-Choice public relations manager Marlon Kanada said SuperSport would beam the Arrows versus Power game live from Sunset and would get a recording of the Nkana against Zanaco match and would wrap up with the NAPSA against Forest Rangers game on Sunday.

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