THE calendar realignment by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has stirred the hornet’s nest with football heads across the continent divided on the issue.
It was CAF President Ahmad’s campaign promise to switch both CAF’s flagship event, the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and the inter-club competitions.
This was done in order to have the best exported talent to Europe available during AFCON and level the playing field for the inter-club competitions.
With those changes taking effect, the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) is therefore compelled to realign the Super League calendar in conformity with the CAF regulations.
Local calendar realignment has been a thorny issue and subject of protracted debate among fans and administrators for many years now.
The counter argument has always been the difference in weather pattern as it is rainy season in Zambia from November up to March and the state of a lot of the pitches are unplayable during this time.
I will argue that even in October the pitches are so dry with patches of grass and sometimes too hot for early kick offs that have become a regular feature in the expanded 20 team Super League.
I want to urge everyone involved to embrace the changes by improving the pitches or surfaces of our stadia. This is an opportunity to upgrade our playing surfaces and infrastructure.
Look at it from the bright side, our league is going through reforms with de-linking of FAZ and Super League, plus the Club Licensing that CAF will police vigorously this season. It is the opportune time to rope in all these changes and deal with growing pains with the rest of the continent while not lagging behind.
At least FAZ were ahead of their time when they decided to start paying indemnities of referees in the local league and CAF have only now gone down that route. Well done Zambia, you paved the way because the state of officiating both locally and on the continent has been a talking point for a while now.
While FAZ are sitting on the fence and took the announcement with a pinch of salt, CAF have gone ahead to even start the 2019 inter-club edition this December. Clearly, there is no room for deliberations but strategise for better participation. Ring those changes when the FAZ Council meets this March.
On the hand, the teams and coaches are elated by the change. Zanaco’s Numba Mumamba and Patrick Phiri lead the praises saying it was about time the playing field was levelled as Zambian teams were rusty coming from off season when the inter-club competitions got underway.
They said the North Africans had an advantage as they were in great shape early in the competition. The old system also punished those with a European type of calendar as they did not enjoy off season when they participated in the CAF competitions ending in player burn out.
It will also make easy player movement and administration as the transfer window will be universal throughout the continent unlike the situation where different countries have their own windows. Change is here, embrace it.
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