IF anyone suggests that Zambia needs to go back to the drawing board after failing to qualify to the World Cup next year, my recommendation will be for such a one to take a good look at the Russia 2018 qualifiers whose curtains close next month.
I grew up hearing about this drawing board. Over time, it’s become a cliché that should, hopefully, be eliminated from our vocabulary soon.
Since I am no master of the Queen’s idoms, I will not go further into clichés and revert to discussing the beautiful game of football.
Watching a determined Chipolopolo side make Nigeria’s Super Eagles sweat before their home fans in Uyo, I realised what potential we have as a country.
The team that played in Uyo and lost 1-0 was not the same as the one that put up a lackluster show in the opening group match to go down 2-1 at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium last year.
The variations displayed in the two matches by a different set of players, the victories against Algeria and a draw away against Cameroon plus the over progression of coach Wedson Nyirenda’s side should give us the perfect template to construct a spreadsheet of the what happened, why and how do we recover.
My notebook alone has some good leads gathered over the last 12 months one of which is, to qualify to the World Cup, a team should no longer play names.
And it showed in our performance when we had what we considered ‘big players’ of this generation and some upstarts toiling in the local league.
Another lesson is that given time and the necessary tools, our local coaches have the capacity to transform a team from write-off to a promising army.
Mind you, the only time we have made it to a football World Cup tournament, it was a local coach Patrick Phiri and BestonChambeshi in charge of the Zambia Under-20 boys in 1999 and 2017 respectively.
Two defeats, a draw in Cameroon and victories over Algeria sum up our World Cup campaign. There has also been sideline competitions such as the COSAFA and Africa Cup race that define our form in the last year.
We have to put the failure to qualify to Russia behind us after all we were not even contenders.
What will be unacceptable is failing to qualify to the Qatar 2022 World Cup when we have had ample time put a team together.
There is no doubt that the qualifying round to Russia has given us a good platform on which to now build a strong team.
And it is here where Nyirenda is expected to be firm and show he is the man in charge. Of course, there are some suggestions doing round that we need an expatriate.
We can even have three expatriate coaches but provided our house is not in good order, we are not doing anything to send the team to the next World.
It’s true that expatriate coaches add a new dimension to the team; they easily win the trust of players, they endear themselves, they are respected and to a larger extent feared so the levels of discipline.
As a short term measure, an expatriate coach would work as a good option, but that does not overall guide us into a good campaign.
In essence, we have learnt our lessons and its time to use these lessons to score the necessary points that we failed to make during the Russia campaign.
Let us not waste time trying to accuse FAZ of failing to push in a protest over referee Joshua Bondo officiating for denying us a scoring opportunity but see how best we move on from here.
Till next week, wishing you a wonderful sporting weekend and remember to send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @eliaschipepo.