By SAMUEL LUKHANDA –
KITWE United this afternoon returns to the big stage after a 13-year hiatus against stuttering holders Zesco United in the Barclays Cup quarter-final at Nkana Stadium.
This will probably be the biggest game of recent times for the Kitwe outfit who will also be making a maiden appearance in the Barclays Cup but are reminded that the last time they played in a cup tie in 2004, they went on to win the BP Top-8 to end a 37-year cup drought.
This situation should have their vocal cadre of supporters pumped up and relishing a shock result against the most successful team in this competition.
It was not lost on their Ghanaian coach Ernest Koffi who said they are on a good trajectory, leading the Division-One Zone-Two promotionchase and qualifying to the Barclays Cup adds impetus to the promotion push.
“If Zesco is Goliath, then we are David and you know how the story goes,” said the witty Koffi but was quick to say his side wants tocontinue the fairy-tale by qualifying to the last four but that they will notlooking beyond Zesco yet.
The five-time winners and holders Zesco make the short trip to Kitwe today to face a lower tier side and go in as favourites to win despite a poor run of results that culminated into crashing out ofthe CAF Confederations Cup at the hands of SuperSport United of SouthAfrica at the weekend.
Zesco coach Zlatko Krmpotić and his team need to win this game to appease the supporters who seem to be growing increasinglypessimistic with each passing game as Zesco continue to struggle forform.
The fans booed him during the SuperSport game as he headed to the dressingroom at the interval and in a post-match conference, blamed them for the team’s poor run, a situation which perhaps shows the growing strain between theSerb and the Levy Mwanawasa faithfuls.
It will be a good opportunity to start mending fences with aconvincing win away from home and remind everyone about the goodtimes but if the results go the other way, the calls for the Serb’sblood will just get louder.
Skipper Jacob Banda publicly backed his coach saying the team wasbehind the Serb who looks like he has lost the dressing room and thefans as well. He will need this result.
For Kitwe, their coach says a big game experience has his dressingroom buzzing and will ride the home support tide as far as it takesin a bid to upset the defending Barclays champions.
“We have a large following here in Kitwe. My players are motivatedplaying a big match against a top side like Zesco in a cup tie. Ourfans need to come out in numbers to support us, we need it,” said Koffi.
The winner of this tie goes to face Lusaka Dynamos who laboured to edgeanother lower tier team in Kabwe Youth Soccer Academy 1-0.
The othersemi-finalist will have Napsa Stars, who beat Green Buffaloes on post-matchpenalties, facing Zanaco who qualified to the semis on the back ofPower Dynamos withdrawing from the competition.