THE 2013 Zambian football action kicks off next weekend in earnest with the traditional season-opening Samuel 'Zoom' Ndhlovu Charity Shield which has served up some appetising semi-final clashes set for Nkoloma Stadium in Lusaka.
In this curtain-raising fixture on February 23, sworn rivals, Power Dynamos and Zesco United have been pitted against each other in the first semi-final match to kick off at lunchtime while defending MTN Premier Division League champions, Zanaco were also handed a tricky clash against Barclays Cup title holders and last year's surprise package, Napsa Stars.
During the draws conducted at Football House in Lusaka yesterday, the pattern of the draws meant that this year's final, whose venue is yet to be decided but most likely Lusaka, would be a duel between the Copperbelt and Lusaka.
But the fireworks would certainly be in the first semi-final where defending champions Power, who dramatically lost the league and Barclays Cup titles last season, would face 2011 Charity Shield winners Zesco United in a match that could have easily passed for a final.
FAZ head of competition, Julio Chiluba, who conducted the draws, said that the Power versus Zesco game would be the first match of the day starting at 13:00 hours with the Zanaco against Napsa clash coming at 15:15 hours.
"We are happy with the draws, they are alright for us and they will offer us great practice as we go into the second leg of the CAF Confederation Cup in Angola. We are otherwise fine with the draw," outgoing Power secretary Justin Kapoma said.
Zanaco secretary, Jordan Maliti said his club would take the game seriously as a way of gauging the players before they venture into the return leg of the CAF Champions League match against Mbabane Swallows in Swaziland.
Zesco secretary, Justin Mumba welcomed the clash against Power, saying there were no easy draws as all teams in the Charity Shield semi-finals were formidable sides.
As Power will be hoping to quickly put away the bad memories of 2012 where they surrendered the league title and Barclays Cup cheaply, Zesco would be unleashing Patrick Kabamba, the 2009 top scorer and footballer of the year, back on the local scene after a three-year absence.
Zesco would also be out to mend some of their shattered pride after a disappointing season last year.
The Charity Shield finals will be played on March 9, just seven days before the 2013 football league season kicks off.
"After the Charity Shield Final, the MTN FAZ league kicks off on March 16 with Week One matches and then quickly followed by Week Two games. Then the league would take a break the following weekend to allow for the FAZ annual general meeting on March 30 and then Week Three the following week," Chiluba said.