Chipolopolo trip flops
By ELIAS CHIPEPO and FELIX MALUNGA -
ZAMBIA’S preparations for tomorrow’s crucial FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifier against Ghana suffered a setback yesterday after west African authorities allegedly denied the Chipolopolo clearance to land in the Kumasi battlefront.
After winding up their intensive training in South Africa, the Chipolopolo flew into Lusaka and were scheduled to depart for Ghana at 13:00 hours but only boarded the plane an hour later.
The squad, which had a morning work-out at Nkoloma Stadium, was made to endure two more hours on a stationary plane before disembarking and heading back to the hotel.
The 80-member Zambian delegation was led by Sports Deputy Minister, Stephen Masumba and also included Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) president, Kalusha Bwalya.
FAZ communications manager, Erick Mwanza, who was also on the plane, accused Ghanaian authorities of not being cooperative, saying they were refusing the Zambian delegation to land in Kumasi but insisted on Accra.
Mwanza said the team’s plane was ready to leave and make a stop-over for refuelling in Kinshasa, DR Congo before connecting to Ghana but authorities there stood their ground.
“Ghanaian authorities are still refusing to allow us to land in Kumasi. We have disembarked and won’t fly tonight. Efforts continue to secure permission in Kumasi and not Accra. Our plane is ready and we will stop over for fuel in Congo Kinshasa. We are all clear with that but Ghana authorities are not being cooperative,” he said.
The Chipolopolo, who need win from this crunch Group D tie to progress to the final knock-out round, will leave this morning.
Mwanza said despite the setback, the squad had remained resolute on the mission ahead and would not allow mind games distract their focus.
However, investigations by the Times revealed that the airport in Kumasi was undergoing some rehabilitation and that only small domestic flights were allowed to land.
And coach Herve Renard is targeting a third win over the Black Stars in tomorrow’s Brazil 2014 World Cup qualifier.
Renard declared that the Chipolopolo were heading to Kumasi for a win because it was a strong squad.
“We’re going to Ghana to win. We’ve got a strong squad. We will wait and see,” he said.
Chipolopolo assistant captain, Kennedy Mweene said the squad had trained well as a unit and was now ready for the Black Stars.
Mweene said while the services of injured top strikers, Jacob Mulenga and Collins Mbesuma would be missed, there were still more players to fill the void and help the Chipolopolo stun the Black Stars in their own backyard.
The Zambian first choice goalkeeper, however, conceded that there was no easy match but the Chipolopolo remained confident of winning tomorrow.
Zambia beat Ghana twice last year by identical 1-0 scorelines.
The Chipolopolo first prevailed over the Black Stars at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations in February and continued with the dominance by winning again in June during a corresponding fixture of the World Cup qualifiers.
Ghana, who have never beaten Zambia in a competitive match in 21 years, lead Group D on 12 points, one better than the Chipolopolo.
The winner of the group will be engaged in two-legged play-offs with nine other group winners to determine Africa’s five envoys in Brazil next year.