Government has said Chipolopolo captain Christopher Katongo's winning of the 2012 British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Player-of-the-year award, beating the likes of Didier Drogba for the accolade, is a sweet Christmas present for the people of Zambia.
Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Kennedy Sakeni in a statement released in Lusaka yesterday said Government received the news of Katongo's victory with great pride and pleasure.
Sakeni, who is also chief Government spokesperson, said the award was a sweet Christmas present for the people of Zambia and a good conclusion of a highly successful year that saw the Chipolopolo win the first-ever Africa Cup of Nations trophy.
He said the high quality of opposition Katongo overcame in the BBC Footballer-of-the-Year contest showed that Zambia's football had matured to world class level.
"Government is proud that as captain of the national soccer team, Katongo has provided exceptional and exemplary leadership both on and off the football pitch.
"It is, therefore, befitting that soccer fans on the continent have recognised Katongo's efforts by overwhelmingly nominating him as best player of the year," he said.
Sakeni urged upcoming football players to emulate Katongo's hard work and determination and also commended the coaching staff led by Herve Renard, the Football Association of Zambia, soccer fans and other stakeholders for the important role they continue to play in the national team's success.
"I reiterate Government's unflinching commitment to working with all stakeholders in further raising Zambia's sporting profile to higher levels," he said.
Former national soccer team coach Patrick Phiri in an interview said Katongo deserved to win the award as he was a dedicated player.
Phiri, who recalled Katongo's exploits when he scored a hat-trick in the 3-1 win over South Africa for the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, said that was the greatest match as he made the nation's dreams and aspirations come alive.
"I would like to congratulate him, he is a hard worker and deserves the award.
"He has potential and I saw potential in him the first time I saw him and I am happy that his efforts have not gone unnoticed," he said.
The Zambia Soccer Fans Association expressed happiness at Katongo's triumph.
"Our goal is to aid the successful defence of the AFCON trophy by vociferous support of the team during the tournament and we as a new organisation are already positioned to take pride of place in galvanising the support of football fans across the nation in supporting the team," the association said.