28 December 2012

Zambia: Chipolopolo Kick-Off Preps

TITLE-HOLDERS Zambia yesterday kicked off the final round of preparations for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in South Africa with towering defender, Stoppila Sunzu being excused from camp to finalise his dream move to England.

The Chipolopolo, who regrouped in Johannesburg on Wednesday, had their first training session yesterday where the squad showed hunger, desire and determination to succeed.

Coach Herve Renard and his technical staff were delighted with the prompt response from the players summoned for the intensive training programme.

Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) spokesperson, Erick Mwanza said the players showed fantastic spirit at the start of their rigorous training programme.

Mwanza said everything in the team camp was okay and went according to the planned schedule and that players' turn out for training was excellent.

"Coach Herve Renard and his staff are delighted that everyone of the Chipolopolo superstars reported on time.

Thursday morning was wonderful; you could see the hunger, desire and determination in the African champions squad as they went about work," Mwanza tweeted yesterday.

He said Europe domiciled trio of defender, Emmanuel Mbola and strikers Emmanuel Mayuka and Jacob Mulenga would be the last to link up with the squad after finishing up some club duties.

Mwanza also said defence pillar, Sunzu had been excused from camp to attend to a matter and that he would only join the team after the weekend.

" Stoppila Sunzu will not be in the team until after the weekend because he has a matter to attend to. He is in Lusaka," the FAZ media and communications manager, said.

But insiders said Sunzu had been given time off from the Chipolopolo duties to enable him complete his dream move from DR Congo's TP Mazembe to struggling English Premiership side, Reading.

The sources said Reading were uncomfortable with Sunzu's delayed trip to go and agree personal terms with the Premiership side, a situation that has seen Renard allow his prized asset leave to conclude the deal fast and return.

All but four of the 26 players Renard summoned for camp ahead of the AFCON finals starting in three weeks in South Africa, have reported to camp with Sunzu being the only readily available player missing apart from those in Europe.

Renard reportedly wanted Sunzu to close the chapter about his move and refocus on the immediate task ahead of retaining the AFCON trophy.

"Stoppila Sunzu has been excused from camp by Herve Renard so that he can quickly conclude his move to England. As you are aware, England has got some cumbersome requirements before a player can move there and those are the nitty-gritty Sunzu is sorting out," the source said.

Among the documents Sunzu is arranging is an International Transfer Certificate from FAZ and also certification that he is indeed a senior national team player and had featured in 75 per cent of the team's games in the last one year for him to get a work permit.

That certificate would also have copies of team sheets and opponents played against with Sunzu clearly meeting these specifications.

After Sunzu conspicuously missed the group of players departing for camp in Lusaka, a report stated that he was down with malaria.

But a new twist states that Reading, who were initially reported to be wanting to sign Sunzu without trials which arsenal wanted, are believed to be wanting a 10-day look at the defender, a situation which may not sit well with Renard.

And Sunzu's defensive partner, Hichani Himoonde has also confirmed leaving TP Mazembe after the expiry of his two-year contract.

Despite the deal ending at the Lubumbashi-based club, Himoonde said his focus for now was to help Zambia retain the AFCON title which was won at the 2012 edition co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

"My contract has finished at TP Mazembe and I am open to offers. For now it is just about the Africa Cup, I do not want to think about anything else," he told the MTNFootball.com.

He, however, said he may stay at Mazembe but only under the right conditions if the Congolese side brought a good deal to the table.

"But for now, my contract is done with TP. It depends on them giving me a good offer," he added.

The 26-year-old towering defender joined TP Mazembe in 2010 from Zambia's Zesco United and has since the arrival of Renard in Zambia been the core of the Chipolopolo defence with Sunzu, who previously operated as a midfielder.

The two defenders have struck a solid partnership that was breached in only two matches at the last Africa Cup, with those matches been Zambia's opening two games and played the next four without conceding on the way to the title winning campaign.

Himoonde was a subject of interest from South African club, Mamelodi Sundowns in February after impressing in the six games he played for Zambia at the 2012 AFCON.

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