By FELIX MALUNGA –
AFTER a two-year lull, Zesco United return to African club football today with a tricky 2014 CAF Confederation Cup away fixture to Ferroviario da Beira in Mozambique.
The Zambian envoys are not only returning to the CAF inter-club this year but also searching for their first win in 2014 after a poor pre-season build up.
Zesco, with a poor run spreading to six games in their build up to this Confederation Cup first round, first leg, will this afternoon seek a winning start in the continental competition.
Having been handed a bye in the preliminary stage of Africa’s second tier club competition, Zesco, who have engaged experienced coach, George Lwandamina, desperately need to find a winning rhythm to bury that an unimpressive pre-season campaign.
Lwandamina hopes to begin his first day in office on a good note by chalking up a victory on foreign soil in the Mozambican coastal town of Beira.
“The team is ready for the challenge against Ferroviario. There is potential in this team and I am sure the players will rise to the occasion,” Lwandamina said in an interview before the team’s departure in Ndola.
Aware of the team’s troubles prior to this assignment, the veteran trainer hopes the players would come to the party at Ferroviario da Beira Stadium and do Zambia proud.
He also noted that sometimes the pre-season results do not bring out the best from the players as they would just be returning from a long recess.
“Sometimes pre-season does bring out the desired results because the boys are just coming back from a long break and you want to bring them together. It is not always that it will work to your advantage but I am sure they are also aware about that so this one (against Ferroviario) is an important outing and that every Jim and Jack is aware about that it is not a friendly game,” he told MTNFootball.
However, Ferroviario are known not to be good travellers and therefore a good outing for Zesco today could give the Ndola side a confidence booster ahead of this weekend’s return leg at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium.
The Zambian High Commission in Mozambique also prodded the team to represent the nation with pride and win today’s encounter.
“We are mobilising Zambians living in Beira to turn up and support,” Zambian High Commissioner to Mozambique, Jaohen Mwakalombe said in a speech delivered to the team by Wisdom Kapwasha, a first secretary at the mission.
With nearly a full team at his disposal, Lwandamina just needs to find the right combinations to do the job in Mozambique.
For this particular assignment, Lwandamina will bank on the experience of goalkeeper Jacob Banda and defenders Charles Siyingwa and Dauti Musekwa to thwart some Ferroviario raids.
Chipolopolo midfielders, Kondwani Mtonga and Justin Zulu are expected to orchestrate play for Zesco with Jackson Mwanza, Chileshe Kangwa and Winston Kalengo leading the search for goals.
As for Ferroviario, their key player is international Mario Simamunda, the scorer of both goals against Tanzania’s Azam, to seal the qualification path for the Mozambicans and Zesco defenders need to be at their best to stop him.
Apart from Simamunda, Maninho is another trump card for Ferroviario.