MY warmest congratulations will go to the Zambia under-20 team that just won the COSAFA under-20 championship after dislodging nemesis South Africa after a week-long tournament in South Africa.
After racing to the final with relative ease, Zambia came up against South Africa in the final knowing the opponents had not conceded a goal throughout the tournament and that they had also scored more.
I watched that final game I must say that more impressive than winning the title was the crispy type of play for the junior Chipolopolo.
The played like Zambian fans like football, build from the back and take the ball right up into attack and both goals that Zambia scored in winning 2-1 came from patient build ups.
Even when they looked to be under pressure at the back from the sleek South Africans, the backline defended with utmost confidence while the midfield was perhaps the best department of the whole team.
We all know that the midfield is the engine room of any successful team and is what particularly made me very happy with what I saw and what the future holds for Zambian football.
Going into the tournament, I was never worried about the goalkeeping department because I know Mangani Banda can walk into any starting team in the premier division today and then the front line also has some strong names in Fashion Sakala and star man Patson Daka, both top scorers at their premier clubs, Zanaco and Power Dynamos respectively.
I was a bit concerned about the defence and back line because even today, as the national coach are trying to regenerate the senior Chipolopolo, the quality of the former under-20 players to take up the backline and midfield has been a real worry.
But I must say that these young lads looked quite comfortable on the ball and were patient in the build up except for a few moments when they lost they cool, but you expect that in such age group.
Many would say this is a reward for the investment made in the team over the years but I will refuse and say this team still has potential. This is just the COSAFA, we still have the big one coming in February and that’s that Africa under-20 Championship that Zambia will host in Lusaka and Ndola.
I was told by FAZ Committee Member Lee Kawanu, who was also delegation leader to the South Africa where the team won the COSAFA Cup that this team was made to play under-20 tournaments when they were under-17.
“So we should start getting reward for the investment and trust in them because they are already exposed to international football and know how to handle pressure,” Kawanu said ahead of the tournament.
A good number of these players were at the Africa Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region-Five Games in Bulawayo two years ago and despite being under-17, they went on to win the regional tournament with aplomb.
They always had a bright future from the way they played in Zimbabwe.
At this year’s AUSC games in Angola, the FAZ has again sent an under-17 team and they have not embarrassed themselves there.
This is good planning and wish to see the FAZ come up with ways of graduating this team since there would be no under-23 competitions for a few years to come and I still feel these under-20 boys are ready to compete for national team places.
Let us take invest more in the youth and push these boys to qualify to the under-20 World Cup.