By SHAMAOMA MUSONDA –
THE triumphant Zambia Under-17 soccer team arrived back home yesterday from Kampala where they beat Uganda 4-1 on aggregate to secure a historic qualification to the Niger 2015 Africa Junior Championship.
Sports Council of Zambia (SCZ) Chairperson Mwamba Kalenga in welcoming the team at Kenneth Kaunda international Airport (KKIA) in Lusaka assured them of assistance ahead of the next year’s championships.
The Chris Kaunda coached side qualified to the finals after beating Uganda 2-1 in Kampala for an aggregate win with team captain Patson Daka scoring a goal in either leg of the qualifiers.
“The Sports Council of Zambia will assist the team as you embark on preparations for the Africa Junior Championships,” Kalenga said.
Kalenga praised the boys for a spirited showing adding that they had done the nation proud by qualifying for the biennial pan-African championship, which is the first for Zambia.
He advised the players to remain disciplined even after making it to the Africa Junior Championships adding that discipline was cardinal to the progression of the young players.
Kalenga also urged the players to set themselves high target as the progressed in their young careers.
Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) vice president Boniface Mwamelo said qualification was the beginning of a tougher road for the Under-17 players and called on them to continue working hard ahead of the final tournament in Niger.
Mwamelo said despite FAZ going through financial challenges, having to camp up to four teams at a once, the association will work hard to see that the team was adequately prepared for the continental tournament.
FAZ has found itself in a situation where it has to camp the Under-17, Under-20 who qualified for the Senegal 2015 Africa Youth Championship and the Shepolopolo who re making a debut at the Namibia 2014 Africa Women Championship.
The Chipolopolo are still in the qualifying series for a place at the Morocco 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals.
Team captain Patson Daka said the team would not go to Niger to make up numbers but to win the African crown.
Daka expressed happiness at having the privilege of leading a junior national team to a first ever qualification to a continental championship.
Coach Chris Kaunda remained humble in glory heaping praises on his players for the qualification adding beating Uganda in both legs was never easy.
Zambia Sports Fans Association (ZASPOFA) chairperson Peter Makembo was on hand to receive the team and praising them for the rare feat but demanded that they remain focussed and work hard.