ZAMBIAN club football thrills roll into action today with the traditional season-opening Samuel 'Zoom' Ndhlovu Charity Shield which has lined up some juicy semi-final clashes at Nkoloma Stadium in Lusaka.
This year's semi-final matches will see three past Charity Shield winners and one newcomer battling to set the tone for the 2003 MTN-FAZ Premier Division League season proper which kicks off next month.
Defending champions, Power Dynamos will renew their rivalry with sworn enemies, Zesco United in the lunchtime kick-off while MTN Premier Division League title holders, Zanaco will test the durability of the 2012 Barclays Cup surprise winners, Napsa Stars in the second semi-final.
Power v Zesco
After failing to live up expectations last season, Power Dynamos and Zesco United have a chance to atone for their 2012 mistakes when they meet in the semi-finals of the curtain-raising Charity Shield.
While Power's only silverware was the Charity Shield last season, Zesco failed to pick up anything on offer last term and hoping for better things this year.
Power, who are using his afternoon's tie to prepare for the 2013 Orange African Confederation Cup, have won the season-opener three times (2004, 2009, 2012) with Zesco lifting the shield twice (2007, 2011).
Last year, Power did a double over Zesco in the league and will hope to continue their dominance over their nemesis this term.
Power coach, Beston Chambeshi is optimistic of picking up the result against Tenant Chembo's Zesco but the Ndola side is also hoping to overturn the fortunes at the club in 2013.
With a crucial return leg of the preliminary round in the CAF Confederation Cup looming next weekend in Angola against Recreativo de Caala, Chambeshi is not leaving anything to chance and hopes his charges will show the character to conquer today.
But Chembo believes Zesco has the capacity to banish the 2013 ghosts and get the better of Power this year.
Power will rely on the efficiency of Mukuka Mulenga, Graven Chitalu, Emmanuel Chimpinde, Thomas Nyirenda and Kennedy Mudenda to get the result this afternoon.
Zesco will bank of the experience of veteran Winston Kalengo, Kangwa Chileshe, John Ching'andu, Nyambe Mulenga, Charles Siyingwa and new acquisitions, Patrick Kabamba, Tom Bakala and Chileshe Kabwe to chalk out a win from this dicey encounter.
Zanaco v Napsa
League champions, Zanaco's title credentials face a stern test when Keagan Mumba's men clash with last year's surprise-package Napsa Stars the second Charity Shield semi-final this afternoon at Nkoloma Stadium.
Like Power, Zanaco are using this fixture to tune up for next weekend's CAF Champions League return leg in Swaziland against Mbabane Swallows.
Zanaco, winners of the Charity Shield in 2001, 2003 and 2006, have vowed to clinch their fourth title this year.
But Napsa, as Power will attest, are a difficult team to beat and coach Peter Kaumba indicated that the team was in the Charity Shield to win it.
Napsa shocked the local football fraternity when they beat favourites, Power to lift the Barclays Cup trophy and Kaumba wants to prove to the nation that last year's achievement was no mere fluke.
However, Zanaco have some exciting talent in Roderick Kabwe, Henry Banda, Mwape Musonda, Lee Ngoma and Elson Mkandawire who on their day can be a handful for any opposition.
Kaumba has veteran Harry Milanzi, Spencer Ngalande, Sipho Mumbi and Adubelo Phiri to do the job this afternoon.
The two finalists will then clash for the top prize on March 9 with the proceeds from the competition going to President Michael Sata, who is patron for the Football Association of Zambia, to donate to charities of his choice.
This is one way the local football fraternity contributes towards alleviating of sufferings of the less privileged in society.