Zambia: Kola Named Zanaco Top Player

GOALKEEPER Racha Kola was at the weekend named Zanaco's Player-of-the-Year with enterprising defender Saulani Phiri voted Young Player-of-the-Year for the 2012 soccer season that saw the bankers crowned Zambian league champions.

And Zambia National Commercial Bank (ZANACO) managing director Martyn Schouten has said the banking giants were expecting the club to perform well in the 2013 Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League which gets underway next month.

Kola was named the 2012 club player-of-the-year, an award he will treasure having showed remarkable improvement from the disaster prone goal minder he was a few years back. He was a monumental figure last season conceding 14 goals for Zanaco with second place finishers Power Dynamos allowing in the second least number of goals at 18.

Receiving the award at a function held at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre (MICC) on Sunday evening, Kola was magnanimous saying all his team mates deserved the award as it would not have been possible without their invaluable input.

"It has come as a surprise because it's rare that a goalkeeper gets such a high award. To be recognised for what you have done on the pitch is indeed great. I hope this award will inspire me to work even harder," he said.

Phiri, who has already caught the eye of Chipolopolo coach Herve Renard and was in the Zambia provisional 23-member for the AFCON 2013 before being dropped, was voted Zanaco's Young-Player-of-the-Year after making an astronomical improvement after joining from Winford Academy at the start of last season.

Skipper Michael Bwalya was voted most disciplined player with the chairman's award went to midfielder and former Zambia player Henry Banda as defender Ziyo Tembo was voted the Most Improved Player while veteran Kunda Mushota walked away with the Most-Consistent-Player award.

Striker Lewis Macha, who is heading to Portugal for trials at Sporting Lisbon, went home with the top scorer award for his nine goals, which were six off the league golden boot winner in Nkana's Reynolds Kampamba.

Meanwhile, Schouten assured the club that the bank would do everything in its powers to fund the team with good results expected from the league champions in the African Champions League.

"We as a bank are proud of the team's success in 2012 and we will do everything possible as your proud sponsors to ensure you retain the Super Division title in 2013. We shall also do everything possible to sponsor you in the CAF Champions League where we expect you to do well," Schouten said.

Zanaco have drawn Swaziland champions Mbabane Swallows in the preliminary round of the 2013 CAF Champions League with the opening game at home on February 16 and the return on March 2.

With CAF not approving Sunset Stadium to host international matches, Zanaco will have to squat at Nkoloma Stadium for their home matches.

Club chairperson Edward Mutale admitted expectations for Zanaco to do well were high and that his executive and coaching bench were up to the job and promised the technical staff will work hard to bring the best out of the players and do the country proud.

"We are alive to the expectations from both our sponsors and the fans on the need to do well. We can promise that we will strive to do well in the local league and of course the ultimate competition- the CAF Champions League," Mutale said.

He said the club in its quest to get into the lucrative CAF Champions League Group stage had signed seven players to bolster their squad ahead of the ultimate football competition on the continent.

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