THE construction of a Football Centre of Excellence on the Copperbelt will rekindle the dreams and aspirations of thousands of youngsters to become superstars in soccer.
It is a dream come true for Ndola Football Academy coach Kennedy Phiri, who is thrilled with the development, saying it would raise the standard of soccer in the province.
“We are very happy that there will be such a facility on the Copperbelt, this is a milestone and we feel it will have a positive impact on our developmental teams.
“There are serious challenges that we face in grooming players in our bare grounds and because of this, the boys feel it’s a shear waste of time to participate in football without proper infrastructure in place but with the Centre of Excellence in place, the mentality will change,” Phiri said.
With inadequate infrastructure, Copperbelt has proved to be a cornerstone of Zambian football with a cream of its star players leading the country’s quest for glory at various international competitions.
International football icon and current Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) president Kalusha Bwalya, formerly of ‘Mighty’ Mufulira Wanderers, the likes of Aggrey Chiyangi, Tenant Chilumba, ‘Chicken’ George Lwandamina, who have contributed immensely to the game, hail from the Copperbelt.
A good number of players in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) winning squad, who included skipper Christopher Katongo, Joseph Musonda, Emmanuel Mbola, Collins Mbesuma, Stoppila Sunzu and Rainford Kalaba, launched their football careers on the Copperbelt.
Furthermore, the Copperbelt based clubs Zesco United, Nkana and Power Dynamos have been flag bearers for Zambia in the Confederation of African Football (CAF) interclub competitions for three consecutive seasons, further confirming the region’s status in local football.
On account of this, the World football governing body, FIFA, deemed it fit to construct a Football Centre of Excellence on the Copperbelt in recognition of the region’s contributions to the game in Zambia.
The project that is solely funded by FIFA under its Goal Number Five initiative is being erected in Baluba area and will gobble a total of $1 million.
Two football pitches that will also see the first ever artificial turf in the province will be put up together with a swimming pool, state of the art classrooms and modern office blocks.
Fifa regional representative Ashford Mamelodi inspected the ongoing works that have reached an advanced stage last week, with a South African sub contractor, Olimonta Sport expected to complete phase one of the project mid next year.
“As FIFA, we were inspired by the Copperbelt’s contributions to Zambia’s football and we thought it would be good to put up this facility, where the football talent can be developed for the benefit of the country,” Mamelodi said in an interview.
The Centre of Excellence will allow young players opportunities to access appropriate levels of coaching and support throughout the talent pathway, and enabling FAZ to reach its ultimate goal, in producing elite players to compete on the world stage.
The structure aims to support talent identification, development and progression of players with the potential and aspiration to play for the various national teams.
FAZ general secretary George Kasengele said the Centre of Excellence was centrally located in Baluba to allow easy access across the Copperbelt.
“We are very grateful to Fifa for this project, once completed; it will have a great impact on Zambia’s football. This facility in strategically located in Baluba for easy access by everyone in the province,” Kasengele said.
So far, the construction of office blocks and classrooms has reached window level and works on the artificial turf have already commenced.