Zambian football scored success in 2012. The Zambia national soccer team won the Africa Cup of Nations in Libreville. Chipolopolo skipper Christopher Katongo was voted 2012 BBC African-player-of-the- year and the under-17 girls team won a gold medal during the Supreme Council for Sports in Africa Zone Six Under-20 Games staged in Lusaka, ROBINSON KUNDA and BENEDICT TEMBO reflect on the achievements.
The country won a maiden Africa Cup of Nations trophy, while the under-17 girls team won a gold medal during the Supreme Council for Sports in Africa Zone Six Under-20 Games.
For the first time, a Zambian coach was named the best on the continent and three players skipper Christopher Katongo, midfielder Rainford Kalaba and defender Stopilla Sunzu were shortlisted for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) awards.
Katongo was not successful for the African-player-of-the-year award after he did not make it to the last five.
Katongo, however, was voted 2012 BBC African-player-of-the-year.
National team stars Rainford Kalaba and Stopilla Sunzu were shortlisted for the Africa-based-player-of-the-year award but surprisingly Al Ahly and Egypt midfielder Mohammed Aboutrika scooped the award.
The Chipolopolo were also named the 2012 African-team-of-the-year while Herve Renard was voted coach-of-the-year.
Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) president Kalusha Bwalya has described 2012 as the best year ever for Zambian football.
“We just hope our success in 2012 will continue even in 2013 as we have some crucial assignments that we need to do including qualifying for the Brazil 2014 World Cup,” Kalusha said.
In October 2011, the Kalusha Bwalya-led FAZ executive brought back Herve Renard as national team coach.
Renard, ditched the Chipolopolo in March 2010 for the lucrative Angola national soccer team top job.
Renard’s return was received with mixed feelings with some people saying he would leave the same way he did after the 2010 continental championship.
However, the Frenchman promised to stick with the Chipolopolo and most importantly he immediately managed to transform the team that eventually won the Africa Cup of Nations.
Zambia travelled for the Africa Cup in Equatorial Guinea as underdogs and this could be seen from the accommodation that the local organising committee in Bata had allocated to the Chipolopolo.
Hotel Carmen was the worst among the facilities that were reserved for the teams and it was justified when Zambia protested and with the help of Kalusha, the organisers agreed to shift the team to Villa Celotti, which was more organised.
On the way to glory, Zambia beat Senegal 2-1, drew 2-2 with Libya, edged Equatorial Guinea 1-0, thumped Sudan 3-0 in the quarter-finals, overcame Ghana 1-0 in the semi-finals and beat Ivory Coast 8-7 on penalties after a goalless draw in 120 minutes.
Since then Zambia has earned a place among the finest teams in Africa and is currently ranked fifth in Africa and 35th in the world.
The World Soccer magazine rated Zambia second behind Spain while Renard was rated sixth with Spain national team coach Vicente del Bosque being rated the best.
The Chipolopolo beat South Africa 1-0 on November 14 to win the Nelson Mandela Challenge.
Women (senior team)
The Enala Simbeya-drilled national women team failed to qualify for the African Women Championship held in Equatorial Guinea.
The women team won gold in the women category during the Supreme Council for Sports in Africa Zone Six Under-20 Games.
Zambia started the campaign in reverse losing 0-1 to South Africa but the She-polopolo beat their rivals 2-1 in the semi-finals and edged Zimbabwe 2-0 in the final.
The Zambia under-20 national team failed to qualify for the African Youth Championship losing 5-2 on aggregate to Mali.
The first leg at Kitwe’s Arthur Davies Stadium ended 2-2 but the Malians thumped Keagan Mumba’s boys 3-0 in Bamako.
The under-17 national team settled for a silver medal during the Zone Six Games. Having taken an early lead, Zambia conceded two second-half goals to lose 1-2 to South Africa.
The 2012 MTN Super Division contest will go down in the history of the country’s top flight football as one of the most dramatic in the history annals of this country.
The league, which closed on November 10, was highly entertaining throughout the season but drama unfolded towards the end as Power Dynamos and Zanaco battled for the ultimate prize – the crown which carries a whopping K250 million.
Of the 480 Super Division matches, only 954 goals were scored cumulatively by all the 30 teams.
In a way, the 2012 season compares well with the 1976 season when Mufulira Wanderers had to win the title on the last day of the season on goal difference to edge out Green Buffaloes after both teams had finished the season on the same number of points – 45.
Zanaco’s coronation for a record sixth time, drawing them level with Power and Buffaloes completed a fairy tale for the bankers who only joined the elite ranks in 1989.
Zanaco, who first won the Super Division title in 2002 and retained it in 2003 under coach Daniel Kabwe, did not look like a team interested in the championship this year.
Eighth finishers in the league last year under Wedson Nyirenda, the bankers, brought in Keagan Mumba to re-organise the team and finish on a respectable position.
In re-organising Zanaco, who also won the league crown three more times in 2005, 2006 and 2009, Mumba brought in Aggrey Chiyangi, whom he worked with at the under-17 national team a few years ago, retained Mumamba Numba as second coach as well as roping in Kalumba Mpunga as goalkeepers’ coach.
With the backroom staff sorted out, Mumba then brought in players he said understand his coaching philosophy.
Wingback Michael Bwalya, who had fallen out of favour at Sunset Stadium and trekked to Konkola Blades, returned as captain.
Others who flocked to Sunset Stadium are strikers Elson M’kandawire and Ephraim Banda; the latter joined Agosto in Angola, holding midfielder Samson Chilupe, striker Lewis Macha, wing back Martin Kaonga and striker Stephen Phiri.
The rest are utility player Ackson Kapungwe, midfielder Maunga Kaunga and Clive Mwale.
The beginning appeared rocky for Zanaco who lost their opening fixture 0-1 to Zesco United at Trade Fair Grounds in Ndola.
Zesco led the log for about eight weeks as they appeared headed to reclaiming the title they lost to Power in 2011.
“Zanaco’s intention was not to win the league, we wanted to finish among the top four,” Mumba confessed.
But as the league progressed, especially towards the close of the first round, Mumba said the team’s ambition changed and the hunt for the ‘Big One’ intensified.
Mumba said they were now looking at finishing second until it was all clear that the 2012 title was theirs to lose.
Then, Zanaco led the log for the most part of the season and it would have been cruel for them to have been toppled or dethroned on the last day of the concluding league matches having sat at the top of the tree for long periods during the campaign.
“Eventually, we won the league,” Mumba said, giving credit to the sponsors, the executive and players for working as a team throughout the campaign.
And Zanaco genuinely deserved to be crowned 2012 Super Division champions!.
As for Power, they may complain that the title was theirs, but results and statistics did not favour their aspirations.
After taking over the leadership with a game before the end of the league, the Kitwe giants badly wanted to retain the crown they won in 2011.
They needed no helping hand in the last fixture against Red Arrows at Nkoloma Stadium in Lusaka.
Power, who got rid of coach Fordson Kabole following their elimination from the CAF Champions League, simply needed to beat Arrows by the narrowest of margins, and had they done that, any other victory by whatever margin would have handed them back the crown.
Elsewhere in the league, the tenacity and heroics of NAPSA Stars in the league and Barclays Cup tournament saw them going all the way to be champions.
But the Barclays Cup glory did not come without controversy.
NAPSA, safe from relegation, sidelined coach Patrick Phiri in preference for his deputy Peter Kaumba.
Kaumba, Zambia’s 1982 footballer-of-the-year winner and a hero of the 1982 African Cup of Nations when Zambia won bronze, gifted NAPSA the Barclays Cup after beating Power 4-2 on penalties.
Ironically, Kaumba enjoyed his illustrious career with Power, a team he won honours with both as a player and coach in 1997.
In winning the 2012 Barclays Cup trophy, NAPSA became the first team from the Midlands to hoist the prestigious trophy.
Phiri was not the only victim of the sackings this season, rather the high-profile candidate.
Konkola Mine Police were the first to drop Godfrey Siame who brought the team to the Super Division.
Roan United followed suit by showing Chris Chibuye the way, so did National Assembly part company with Wesley Mondo early in the season and later Egyptian mentor Mohamed Fathy towards the close of the term.
Nchanga Rangers removed Bruce Mwape and engaged Fighton Simukonda who moved from Nakambala Leopards.
Nkana dispensed Linos Makwaza and replaced him with his assistant Zeddy Saileti while Konkola Blades also terminated the services of Manfred Chabinga in a season, which saw a high, turn over of coaches.
Lateral movements involved Weston Mumba taking charge at Forest Rangers following the departure of Hector Chilombo who went to reinforce at Power with Wilson Mwale returning to Nakambala.
Indeni, Nakambala Leopards, National Assembly and Green Eagles were disappointed by their relegation from the Super Division.
Relegation entails losing out from sponsorship by mobile giant, MTN and broadcast sponsor, Supersport which doll out cash to Super Division teams.
Through the coverage of Super Division games, the South African pay channel does not only empower clubs with cash which goes a long way in running their programmes but also offers commercial ventures – club sponsors and businesses which advertise in stadiums – benefits of commercial branding.
For players, Supersport coverage is a window for them to be seen by agents and clubs in South Africa and beyond.
Supersport’s coverage has undoubtedly helped take Zambian football to a new level as coaches and players work hard to showcase their abilities before huge television audiences.
Mobile giant MTN has continued its sponsorship of the country’s elite league by compensating clubs according to their labour.
All the 16 clubs receive tokens of appreciation according to their performance in the league – with the champions getting the lion’s share.
Attendance at local league matches, especially in the Super Division improved by almost hundredfold – thanks to Zambia winning the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, which was a rennaisance of a kind.
When Zambia were crowned continental champions for 2012, and with one Emmanuel Mayuka becoming a most sought-after player in Europe particularly in the English League, the development noticeably became contagious among players, rubbing on to them.
The aftermath was the emergence of little-known Nkana player Reynold Kampamba winning the golden boot after scoring 14 goals.
He became the second Nkana player to win the top-scorer award, following in the footsteps of Evans Kangwa who won it last season.
With Kabwe Warriors, Nkwazi, Lime Hotspur and Kalulushi Modern Stars bouncing back to the Super Division, there is a new kind of a revolution hovering in the air in the top league come 2013.