27 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Nation Must Prioritise Junior Football

"I have never understood these Zimbabweans. When did they cease to be our bitter rivals? They should know that Zambia is representing Zambia, not southern Africa. Every team got its chance in Afcon [African Cup of Nations] and Zimbabwe was busy fixing matches...This cup is for Zambians alone.

They should build their team, the Warriors or Dreaming team, whatever they call it. I was surprised to see Zimbabweans who for long have ridiculed our dear Chipolopolo post such statements as we've done it! Whaaaaaat?! Organise your team. My statement is simple: ....don't bother stealing our glory. Hala Zambiaa hala," fumed Zambian national Collins Kasanda last year in a post that went viral on social media soon after Zambia had bagged the Africa Cup of Nations trophy.

Kasanda was questioning why Zimbabweans were vociferously and passionately celebrating Zambia's Afcon victory more than the Zambians themselves.

Many Zimbabweans would be quick to dismiss Kasanda as an overzealous fan.

It is easy to immediately tell Kasanda that he should go to a place where the sun does not shine because of his ridicule to our football.

But in some way, Kasanda was right.

He had every right to stand on top of a mountain, beat himself on the chest and brag about his country's Nations Cup feat.

Those were just his honest views and he was not the cause of our football woes after all.

We are the architects of our football misery. We are our own enemies.

A look at Zambia's triumph in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon last year would clearly tell one that they are organised.

One would wonder how the then unheralded players like Stopilla Sunzu and Emmanuel Mayuka managed to hold their nerves against the mighty Ivory Coast in that final match last year.

Sunzu, Mayuka and William Njobvu were part of those boys who took part in the Fifa World Youth Championships in Canada in 2007.

During that time Mayuka was still a schoolboy and that was when he started gathering international football experience.

But unfortunately, we have been arrogant towards our own young boys and too blind to see the significance of continental junior tournaments.

Last year we failed to send the national Under-17s and 20s for their respective continental away assignments.

The same week that our Under-17s were supposed to travel to Congo Brazzaville was when the Warriors were being treated to five star luncheons and dinners before travelling for that doomed Angola mission.

Sadly, during that same week the juniors were moving around in a battered Mazda Swaraj minibus and kitted in worn-out uniforms that have been used by many generations of Young Warriors.

While money was being sourced for the senior team, the same concerted drive was never afforded junior national teams.

The phrase "junior football development" has become a hymn at Zifa but non-existent in practice and implementation.

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