THE nomination of Rainford Kalaba and Stopilla Sunzu for the Confederation of African Football (CAF)'s best player of the year award based in Africa, has elated Kitwe side Afrisports, who groomed both players from the amateur ranks to stardom.
Afrisports chief executive officer Gabriel Kaunda said in an interview in Lusaka yesterday that the nominations were humbling and gave him impetus to work even harder.
"It's simply amazing. It is overwhelming to see the two players being looked at in such a light across Africa and the world. I saw them through from humble beginnings and for them to reach such heights brings a feeling of satisfaction," he said.
Kaunda said he was happy to play a part in the football development of the country adding that his attachment to the youth players was deep rooted and would continue to work with them with the aim of producing talented players for the country.
Other players churned out from Afrisports' Mapili Ground in Ndeke include the likes of Holland-based striker Jacob Mulenga and Portugal-based defender Emmanuel Mbola, Aaron Katebe playing for Hwange FC in Zimbabwe, Jackson Mwanza and Ignatius Luipa, who are playing for Zesco United and Zanaco respectively, among others.
Asked on what the secret was to producing a good array of players, Kaunda said it all lay on having a good eye for talent but most importantly to have the patience to work with young players adding a deliberate policy and plan for their development was vital.
Afrisports has seen better days and are languishing in the MTN-FAZ Division Two North League but Kaunda remains resolute that the bad days would soon be behind the club and revealed he was in talks with a locally owned mining firm over a sponsorship deal.
The Mufulira-born Kalaba moved to Kitwe in 2002 after bein spotted as a tiny but highly skilful player at a Copperbelt youth tournament and went on to help Afrisports rise from the amateur ranks to the Premier Division through successive promotion.
He was also part of the Afrisports side that broke Zambia points tally record in winning promotion to the Super Division in 2004 with 85 points from a possible 90, winning 28 games, drawing one and losing just one and has played every junior national team from the Under-17.
Sunzu joined Afrisports as a 15-year-old after being spotted during an Avimin Mine sponsored Copperbelt Youth championship in Chambeshi and on recommendations of Chishala Bwalya, Kaunda snapped up the lanky player who debuted at national team level at the Under-23 as an 18-year-old.
Meanwhile, the national soccer team comprising mainly of locally based players was yesterday expected to regroup on the Copperbelt ahead of a series of international friendly matches before coach Herve Renard names his provisional squad for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Zambia play Tanzania on December 23 followed by a match against Morocco January 8, 2013 and Norway four days later at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium.
Other training matches against Namibia and Saudi Arabia have also been arranged.
Team comprises Danny Munyau, Joshua Titima, Luciano Sandro Pasquini, Davy Kaumbwa, Jimmy Chisenga, Chishimba Changala, Chintu Kampamba, Salulani Phiri, Rodrick Kabwe, Thomas Nyirenda, Joseph Sitali, Shadreck Malambo, Mukuka Mulenga, Kennedy Mudenda, Bruce Musakanya, Musonda Lubambo, Kangwa Chileshe, Evans Kangwa, Moses Phiri, Lewis Macha, Ronald Kampamba, Alex Ngonga, Aaron Katebe and Chisamba Lungu.