Zambian sports failures

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 10:20:55 +0000


By Expendito Chipasha Chipalo

From the last week of February 2017 to the second week of March 2017, Zambia will be the focus of African sports followers. During that period, the country will host the Under-20 Men’s African Football Confederations championships in two cities; Lusaka and Ndola.

It is not always that the host nation of a tournament takes the crown as we saw in last month’s senior Afcon Championships which was won by the rejuvenated Indomitable Lions – Cameroon and not the host nation.

However, many Zambian sports lovers particularly football fans will be not be expecting anything less than the junior Afcon Championship Crown especially that the team is fresh from wining the regional Cosafa Championship and so much has been spent on preparing them with a reasonable period of camping in Spain.

It’s been a while since Zambia hosted an event of this magnitude and I thought we should take this opportunity to reflect on our sports achievements and failures and look at the way forward.

Zambia’s most sporting successes were recorded before 1991 when the government gave very solid support to recreation through the schools, local authorities and the major mining companies and parastatal and the security wings..

The privately owned mines built very modern sporting facilities and these were maintained after nationalization and provided a consistent and high quality nursery of amateur sportsmen and women.

“Mighty” Mufulira Wanderers earned the accolade of legendary cup fighters when they won the territorial Castle Cup after beating Salisbury (now Harare) Wanderers as the young nation inched towards independence.

Wanderers were sponsored by the mine owners and their victory remains a testimony of the value that company sponsorship adds to sports and the usefulness of recreation facilities as an incentive to the work force.

From the government perspective, local authorities provided recreation facilities including stadiums and employed sports officers to train and supervise teams in various sports. These activities were known as the welfare system and we had welfare halls and sports fields in all the cities and small towns.

The government also gave substantive support to school sports through the construction and maintenance of sporting facilities and the provision of equipment. Our first major success as a sporting nation; that is our first appearance at the African Cup of Nations did not come as an accident.

That success came through well thought out plans and commitment on the part of the government. Sometime in 1968 the government recruited highly qualified physical education teachers among who were thirteen football coaches.

The head of the football coaches was a Mr. MacCathy who was based at Roan Secondary School in Luanshya. My school Mungwi Secondary School had Mr. Andrew Seaward as the football coach and Mr. John R Hicks as the physical and gymnastics teacher.

The National Sports Council of Zambia also focused on development and there was a director of coaching Mr. John Green who used to tour all the schools to ensure that we maintained the same technical systems.

His Peugeot station wagon was always full of footballs and in football I remember, I was the deputy sports captain, we were told to adopt the 4-2-4 and 4-4-2 systems as that is what was recommended for the national teams and players suitable for that pattern of play had to be developed through the schools and the clubs.

Many First Division, what is now called the Super League clubs were composed of a lot of school boys and this reflected in the national teams at all levels. The 1974 KK 11 as the national team was fondly called was about 80 per cent school boys. I will try to recall them and “King” Peter Mhango and Ackim Musenge or Edward Musonda must correct me where I will miss.

1.Emmanuel “Manix” Mwape (Roan Secondary School), 2. “King” Peter Mhango (Libala Secondary School), 3. Edward Musonda (Kabwe or King George Secondary School), 4.Dick Chama (Miner at Bancroft Mine), 5.Dick Makwaza (Miner at Mufulira), 6. Richard “Chilupula” Stevenson (King George Secondary School), 7.Moses Simwala (Luanshimba Secondary School), 8. Joseph Mapulanga (Roan or Mpatamatu Secondary School), 9. Benard Chanda (Roan Secondary School), 10. Godfrey “Ucar” Chitalu/ Kaodi Kaushi/Fred Mwila (all seniors).11. Brighton Sinyangwe (Miseshi Primary School).

Almost all  the reserves were school boys and these included Abraham Nkole (Kantanshi or Mufulira SS) between the posts, Edwin “Edu’ Mbaso (Masala SS), Kaiser Kalambo (Roan Secondary School), Ackim Musenge (St. Clements SS), and so on.

These school boys came through a well articulated programme which included international friendly games with visiting professional teams. The Football Association of Zambia arranged yearly friendly games and each team that came would play the first game against the Zambia Schools 11 usually at Woodlands Stadium, the second game be would against Zambia B 11 at Scrivener Stadium in Kitwe and the last game against the full national team was either at Dag Hammarskjold Stadium in Ndola or the Independence Stadium in Lusaka.

Among the teams that came to Zambia for such friendly matches were Wolvermpton Wanderers, Ipswich Youth from England, Fortuna Düsseldorf from Germany, Flumminense from Brazil, the Cuban national team and many others.

To play for Zambia Schools was a sought after achievement e as one was immediately recognised as an international footballer and such players were given a School Boy International Badge. Five players from my school, Roy Kunda, David Chalwe, Paul Muma, Paul Chilemya and Richard Sinkala received the coveted blue and gold badge.

This system also applied to institutions of higher learning and the Zambia High Institutions Sports Association (ZHISA) contributed talent to various sports. Football in particular had Chindo Sikasula, Enoch Kalepa, Stocks Mutambo who featured in senior clubs and national teams at the time I was president of the Students Union at Evelyn Hone College.

The government did not just concentrate on football, all the sports were given support and the inter provincial athletics championships were a respected events and I remember taking second places in the high jump and the pole vault events at David Kaunda Technical Secondary in 1969 behind a white guy from southern and a much older person than me from central province respectively.

Then secretary general of the Zambia Amateur Athletics Association Stan Smith was there to supervise the games and the National Sports Council if I recall correctly used to keep the records of the results.

Sports infrastructure and facilities were maintained for all the schools and my rural school had a wonderful running track and long jump and triple jump pits. I was recently told that the pole vault pit is now overgrown with grass.

The impact of these government efforts continued into the eighties with great achievements recorded in boxing by Lottie Mwale, Chisanda Mutti, Charm “Shuffle” Chiteule who followed the footsteps of David Natta, Julius Luipa and Kid Miller Masaiti.

The government also invested in the training of coaches for all the sports. Roy Mulenga (Basketball), David Ng’andu (ZHISAthletics) Bonface Simutowe, Dick Chama (Football), Bogar Mushanga, Misheck Mwale and Sichande (Atheletics), Vincent Mudenda (Boxing) and Ngalama Kalaluka (Unza Sports Officer).

These people were sent to universities in Germany and or schools of Excellency in their given disciplines. The coaching training these Zambians received was so advanced that they had a lot of influence on the direction of national sports upon their return to the country.

They received complete sports education and training so much that they were able to coach varied disciplines. For example, Roy “Tanganyika” Mulenga became a very successful football coach at Strike Rovers and Green Eagles and David Ng’andu had successful stints as coach at City of Lusaka and Nchanga Rangers Football Clubs.

This is the background that led to Zambia’s sports success stories from the past. For many years now, it has been a story of mixed fortunes and lucky hits. It is a situation of swim or sink; a few successes and then failure after failure. For how long can this go on? Our participation at the Olympic Games has become a mere routine outing for the officials.

Troubleshooter thinks time has come to take some bold decisions. At the core of the problem is the government and the organ which is responsible for the development of sports is the National Sports Council of Zambia (NSCZ).

As I discuss the issue of the NSCZ, I would like to point out that my criticism is not aimed at any individual. I would also like to explain that I do not consider my ideas or proposals as superior to other people’s thoughts but that I would like to provoke a serious national debate on how the country can move its sports development forward.

My contributions are based on personal experience as a young sports person in my school and college days, my experience as a reporter, my experience as a sports administrator; starting as a sponsor of the BP Top Eight, BP Squash, as secretary general for the Cycling Association of Zambia for two years, then chairman for four years and Secretary General of the Confederation of African Cycling (CAC) for four years.

It is my sincere belief that the NSCZ has outlived its usefulness. A new concept of sports development and administration must evolve with the possibility of creating a sports commission at district, provincial and national level. There is need to create an organ which will decentralize sports development, and administration.

The core function of such a commission should be development and not the current situation of the NSCZ which is always at conflict with the national associations. Members of the national commission must be appointed by the minister and ratified by the National Assembly. The quality of elected officials leaves much to be desired.

At the time I was chairman of a member federation, I complained about the repressive nature of the NSCZ operations and I particularly complained about the affiliation fees that the council demands from the federations. The so called affiliation fees are exorbitant and not necessary. They do not benefit the member federations at all. These affiliation fees are an indirect levy or tax on the sportsmen and women and should be reduced drastically or be abolished completely.

The staffing of the NSCZ of Zambia is also unsupportive to sports development. All the officers who are seconded from the Army and the Air Force are in administrative roles when what is urgently required is technical know how.

The NSCZ has no policy or strategy on training administrators and coaches; it has no technical programmes, no data base of coaches or nay other technical staff. The only committees that exist are the disciplinary and finance committee.

There is an urgent need to overhaul our sports development policy and to establish a new structure which will possibly combine the NSCZ and the National Olympic Committee as is the case in some of the countries I visited when I run the CAC Secretariat. Egypt has one of the best models and all Olympic disciplines are housed in the national sports complex in Cairo.

Running sport is an expensive venture and many disciplines find it very difficult to find sponsors. In the good old days, we had the National Sports Foundation and I remember Vernon Johnston Mwaanga was once a chairman. The Foundation managed a revolving fund supported by contributions from leading companies. In some countries lotteries are run to support sports while others have introduced sports levies which are tax deductible.

This is some food for thought. How can we mobilize funds for sports and how can we properly administer such a fund if it were to materialize. The potential is there but I do not have the luxury of space to go into details.

Sports are lucrative but also very competitive and sophisticated. Mass production without quality can be a waste. We therefore have to get back into the schools. Talent without education does not go very far. I had first hand experience of this.

I led a committee of ten as chairman of CAZ and I had eight expatriate committee members. They were very committed and we trained some out of school youths who were very talented. We even got them professional contracts in South Africa but they failed because the language in the peloton is English or French.

The very talented young Zambians could not fit because of communication problems. They could not even understand off competition instructions on bike maintenance and nutrition due to lack of education. They got back home in frustration and became polygamists with the little earnings from their short professional stints.

We have had similar stories in other sports like the footballers who came back to spend their money in pool clubs and boxers who went drinking ruining very promising careers. Education is important; we have technical schools, why can’t we have sports academies. Sports have great potential for employment and can also bring hard currency into the country.

The government must also consider means of undoing the fiasco that privatization created for recreation in the mining towns. Those sports facilities which were sold to individuals who have turned them into taverns and bars must be given back to the new mine owners.

We can reach higher heights once again and as we cheer our boys in the Under-20 Afcon Championships, let us get busy thinking about the future.

Good luck Zambia / /



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