God loves Zambia

OBSERVATION with CHAPADONGO LUNGU

Zambia

Katongo

A FLURRY of messages streamed into my phone following Zambia’s qualification for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations after edging hosts Uganda 9-8 on penalties in a match the gods were clearly on our side.
I will share a few with you – the readers – who have kept this column running for years. One said: “God loves Zambia.”
The other screamed: “We have reached a point where an angel has to guard our goalposts. The third hit my eyes with the following words: “Zambia are penalty experts.”
The messages kept coming and at some point I had to switch my phone off to write this column so that we could share some notes. Thanks for your observations.
Let’s review yesterday’s game and forecast the Africa Cup finals South Africa will be staging in January. First, we must praise the team for qualifying at a fortress considered extremely difficult. Nelson Mandela Stadium is no easy hunting ground and that is why even the best of all have tumbled.
Not because the pitch is patched up everywhere but because Uganda have made it a tradition never ever to lose at home. And they almost achieved that, winning 1-0 in regulation time and stretching the African champions to penalty lotteries.
Admittedly, I clutched my chin on my knuckles, watching in utter disbelief as Zambia skipper Christopher Katongo missed his team’s first penalty, handing the initiative to Uganda who grabbed it with grace.
We trailed and I could see coach Herve Renard’s face turning red with rage, I think. The guys I was watching the match with saw hope evaporate from my face and they encouraged me, one declaring: “Don’t worry, we are winning.”
One guy whom I suspect is Ugandan watched gleefully as Katongo halfheartedly sent a tame shot which the Ugandan goalie stopped, dead.
The rest of the boys were a delight to watch as they shook the net with lavish cheek. The Felixs, Sunzus, Isaacs, Chintus, Mweenes, Nathans, Nkausus, Mayukas, Sakuwahas of this world spared us the blushes, scoring with such quality one would love to watch forever.
Qualifying for the Africa Cup is no easy assignment irrespective of your status, and that’s why we have to praise the boys for the job well done. Some big teams won’t be at the biennial tournament but Zambia will be making their 16th appearance.
Some countries have never been to the Africa Cup since 1957, long before most of you and, of course I, were born.
As we go to South Africa, it is important to point out some shortcomings in the team. It was a close shave! It was a big struggle. The team played without that winning spirit they are known for.
Zambia had no single shot at goal in the first half and the team looked rather lethargic, struggling to knit passes, and losing possession needlessly.
The midfield, as expected, was nonfunctional as some players were not progressive. They were flashy. I missed the ingenuity of one Rainford Kalaba.
None could fit in Rainford’s shoes, which are seemingly too big. Most of the players other than Sunzu and of course Mweene played below their known capacity.
Chris had a day he would never want to remember.
Renard will have to make very brave decisions ahead of the Africa Cup as sticking to all the players would be fatal to Zambia’s ambitions of retaining the title.
Without wanting to tinker with his team, I strongly thought players like James Chamanga should have been given a run-out based on his current form.
He has been hitting the net in China with relative ease and I thought he was going to be the best candidate upfront for yesterday’s match.
For now, let’s celebrate qualification and prepare adequately for the tournament.
Email: clungu@daily-mail.co.zm