ZAMBIA coach Herve Renard has urged soccer fans not to worry about Chipolopolo's ability to successfully defend the Africa Cup of Nations title in South Africa that gets underway next weekend.
Renard has instead challenged the fans to turn up in numbers to cheer the African Champions when they take on Norway in an international friendly match to be played at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola, a match that would beamed live on SuperSport.
He said fans should continue supporting Chipolopolo starting with the first match against Ethiopia unlike always wanting to see if the team would get to the finals.
Soccer fans in the country have expressed mixed feelings following Chipolopolo's failure to win their practice matches but Renard said the team will defend the Cup as it will go into the competition with the same determination and motivation that won them the 2012 AFCON edition.
Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) media and communications manager Erick Mwanza said at a media briefing at Football House in Lusaka yesterday that Renard was not worried with the results recorded during the past three practice matches.
Mwanza said Renard said the key would be the fans' support starting with the game against Norway and the AFCON finals in South Africa.
He said the role fans play has been underestimated by many but that Renard wants to see fans fill up the stadium when Zambia is playing as Chipolopolo thrive on crowds.
Mwanza said Renard was using a developmental side in a match against Saudi Arabia while the match against Tanzania had a combination of locally based players and a few Chipolopolo stars.
"Were have you seen an international friendly match where 11 substitutions are made in a game? The case was the same against Morocco were five or so changes were made.
How many players that lost to Tanzania and Saudi Arabia are in this final Chipolopolo squad? Renard has made it clear that he did not want to rush most of the players against Morocco, so you have to understand that there is no need to worry," Mwanza said.
He said the match against Norway was a FIFA sanctioned match where points that affect the FIFA rankings would be given for a loss and a win for the two sides while the other matches were merely practice matches to enable the coaching bench gauge the players.
On the dropping of Chintu Kampamba from the squad, Mwanza said the veteran defender of four AFCON finals had not been able to train since sustaining an injury during a practice match against Tanzania.
"Chintu has failed to train with the team since his injury in the match against Tanzania and the coach felt it prudent to leave out the player. His failure to recover meant he was unable to be included into the squad," he said.
"On Shadreck Malambo and Saulani Phiri, the coach said the two were young with a bright future ahead of them and that it was just a matter of time they will be able to get their chance. Kalililo Kakonje is a great player and even Renard has great respect for him but he had to make a choice," he added.
MultiChoice Zambia public relations manager Marlon Kananda said SuperSport will beam the game live and fans will be able to watch proceedings on SS 7 and GOtv Select channel.
Kananda said his company realised that there is a lot of excitement involving Zambian football and the reason for the pay-television channel decision to air the game live from Ndola to accord fans the opportunity to watch the champions.
He, however, urged fans to turn out in numbers at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium to cheer the team saying it was also good to show a team live with fans cheering their team.