INSPIRATIONAL skipper Rainford Kalaba will not lead Zambia’s quest for the record fifth Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) Senior Challenge Cup in South Africa this month.
Kalaba and his three TP Mazembe teammates, Nathan Sinkala, Given Singuluma and Kabaso Chongo will not be released for the COSAFA Cup because of the busy schedule at their DR Congo club.
Mazembe, who lead sworn rivals Vita Club by a point in the Congolese Premiership, will be engaged in a fierce league battle until next month.
Club sources said Mazembe have nine games in the league play-offs and wanted all the star players available for the assignments which would determine clubs to represent Congo in the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup next year.
With the COSAFA Cup being staged during the non-FIFA recognised dates, the Mazembe sources said there was no way the Lubumbashi-based club could release their players for such an engagement.
The Mazembe quartet is expected in Lubumbashi today when the four-time African champions resume preparations for the final push in the league.
Initially, the Congolese league was scheduled to close by this monthend but the season opened late and will now end in June.
Kalaba, currently playing some refined football, is regarded as one of the star performers for Mazembe coach, Patrice Carteron.
Carteron is also said to be impressed with the fitness levels of Sinkala after an injury he sustained at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals in Equatorial Guinea and Mazembe are expected to register him for the CAF assignments next month when the transfer window opens.
The four Chipolopolo players featured for Zambia in Sunday’s international friendly match against Malawi in Lusaka.
Zambia, the COSAFA Cup title holders, beat Malawi 2-0 at Nkoloma Stadium.
Meanwhile, coach Honour Janza has urged the Chipolopolo not to be satisfied with the win over Malawi but should instead continue working hard ahead of the upcoming tournaments.
“As a coach, you can never be 100 per cent satisfied with a win, but I am happy that the players are jellying in well and adhering to my philosophy of high pressing. The players are physically fine, they can endure for long and are able to repossess the ball when they lose it,” he said.
Janza said the win was a moral booster going into the COSAFA Senior Challenge and the 2017 AFCON qualifiers but warned the team against getting content.
“The win does not mean the light is brighter, we don’t have to be content with what we have .The victory should be left behind and we should remain focused for COSAFA,” he said.
He piled praise on the local players, saying they were performing well at the national team, a sign of stiff competition in the MTN-FAZ league.
Sport Minister Vincent Mwale has given the Chipolopolo a target of reaching the finals of the COSAFA that kicks off May 17 in South Africa.
“The game against Malawi is a morale booster, the target at the COSAFA is to reach the finals and also defend the cup. Looking at the game they have displayed they should reach the finals, it was good preparation and I have a lot of belief we can defend title,” he said.