YOUR usual host Elias Chipepo is away, while he is away, I will make sure I keep this platform warm.
I was at Arthur Davies Stadium when the Zambia under-20 took on Malawi in the Mopani Copper Mines Cosafa 2017 second group match. The scenes at the northern end of the stadium late in the second half were disgraceful and left a bitter taste in my mouth.
The so called fans at the northern stand turn on their own team booing the young Chipolopolo while cheering on the Malawians. What was that all about? That was disgusting and any fan worth the salt should be ashamed of such acts especially towards an age group team.
For Christ sake these are kids just getting started in their career and this was probably the biggest crowd they have ever played before and you boo them? You could break their confidence and they may never realise their potential.
What if that left back was your young brother or your son how would you feel that your neighbours are booing him. This is the sort of behavior that causes crowd trouble at the Stadiums. I would maybe give them the benefit of the doubt if this was the Chipolopolo proper and there was no effort on the pitch from the players but no!
If you were at the stadium, you saw how much the lads wanted a positive result and the effort they put in. Those fans took away from the team the last ingredient needed for them to grind out that result, belief.
When you play at home, you want the fans to lift you when things are not going according to plan but those fans started booing with more than 15 minutes left on the clock in that dimly lit Arthur Davis Stadium.
I sat at the media tribune next to other teams’ technical people and they watched the scenes with bemusement but it was shameful for me and my media colleagues from Zambia.
The under-20 national team coach Mumamba Numba put up a brave face in the post-match press conference but admitted that such reactions from the crowd was bad for the young players because you are not sure how it will affect the young players.
“For us the technical bench, we know our people when the results don’t go to their expectations they turn on the team. We have been in football for a long time but you never know how it affects a young player,” said Numba.
Again, Numba has received a lot of stick for failing to defend the Under-20 Cosafa title but the fans did not get the memo. The objective was not to win this tournament but expose and give the Under-17 players that were used international exposure in preparation for the African Cup of Nations 2019 (Afcon) which is in two years’ time.
He only knew he will be taking charge of the team a week before training camp and had just four weeks to prepare for this tournament. It was never going to be easy after the lofty standards set by the previous Patson Daka lead Under-20 team. Maybe we have been spoiled by the success of our teams lately and lost touch with reality.
This is a rebuilding process and the FAZ president Andrew Kamanga weighed in on this one pointing to the fact Zambia could have easily won this tournament if they used 20-year-olds but they went with a young team with one eye on defending the Afcon crown.
Zambia has won the Under-20 Cosafa 11 times and its time we looked at the bigger picture in joining the continental heavyweights at this age-group tournaments. It starts with defending the Afcon title.
So if FAZ decides not to bring these international games to these venues let it be known that it lies squarely on those disgraceful fans. I should send out my gratitude to that Southern stand at Arthur Davies mostly for kids who continued to rally behind our boys. Those are the Zambian fans I know.
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