THE Zambia Under-23 soccer team was yesterday left stranded after they were denied access to train at the Sunset Stadium in Lusaka for the forthcoming CAF 2015 African Championship qualifiers.
The team that arrived at Sunset around 09:30 hours were refused entry into the facility as grounds men claimed the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) did not secure use of the facility on time.
Zambia is on bye in the first round and will play the winner of the Botswana versus Kenya second round on the weekend of May 22. The winner from that tie will then face Ivory Coast for a place at the Under-23 African Championship set for Senegal.
It was a big setback for Fighton Simukonda who only had seven players reporting for camp. Workers were seen busy watering the pitch as the players tried to warm up on the sides of the pitch as officials continued making frantic efforts to secure a training pitch.
The players were later advised by their team manager Goodson Mbozi to get back onto the bus and leave for the FAZ technical centre adjacent to the Olympic Youth Development Centre (OYDC).
“We have managed to secure a pitch at the Bank of Zambia. This is after we failed to train at Sunset where we found the grounds men busy working on the pitch. We may train there next week,” he said.
Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) communications manager, Nkweto Tembwe said he was surprised that the team failed to train because arrangements had been put in place to train at Sunset.
“The technical bench contacted the stadium owners last week but I am sure the permit did not reach them on time so that should be the reason why they were not allowed to train from there today (yesterday),” he said.
Coach Fighton Simukonda said the team was prepared to train despite the small number of players who have reported for camp.
“We thought they were aware that we were supposed to train from here (Sunset) but unfortunately it seems like no one is aware, so we will just try to find elsewhere for now as we are still wait for them to respond,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chipolopolo vice captain Nathan Sinkala is today expected to join camp ahead of Sunday’s friendly match against Malawi to be played at Nkoloma Stadium in Lusaka.
Midfielder Felix Katongo, who has also been recalled to the squad by coach Honour Janza, was part of yesterday’s training session in readiness of the May 10 match against Malawi which the team will use as part of preparations COSAFA Senior Challenge Cup.
Tembwe said in an interview at Heroes National Stadium that Sinkala, who is already in the country, would join the Chipolopolo squad.
He said Janza had expressed worry of the inactiveness of some of the foreign based players and hence the reason to have Sinkala joining the squad early.
Sinkala has been out of action since injuring himself at the Equatorial Guinea 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals.
Tembwe said Janza wanted to assess as many foreign based players as possible looking at their fitness levels ahead of regional tournament that kicks off on May 17 and equally looking ahead to the 2017 AFCON qualifiers.
Team manager Lusekelo Kawambi said 13 local players had regrouped while Green Buffaloes goalkeeper Joel Kanyemba and players from Power Dynamos and Nkana were expected to report yesterday afternoon.
He said the coach would have to make a decision on the Zesco United and Power players who have been withheld by their clubs because of tomorrow’s MTN-FAZ Premier League midweek matches.