Young Chipolopolo become African champs

By Robson Sharuko

HARARE – The Zambia Under-20 national football side, riding on a wave of national euphoria last seen when the country shocked the world by winning the African Cup of Nations in 2012, held their nerve on Sunday to provide a fitting conclusion to the 2017 CAF Under-20 Nations Cup finals by lifting the trophy for the first time in the country’s history.

Zambia’s Golden Generation of teenage footballers, who had already won the COSAFA Under-20 Cup last year, added another trophy to their cabinet as they emerged as the kings of a tournament they hosted by beating Senegal 2-0 in the final of the 2017 CAF Under-20 Nations Cup tournament at the National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka.

As had become the norm, in matches featuring the hosts, a capacity crowd, including President Edgar Lungu, was on hand to witness their coronation as the new kings of CAF’s flagship junior football tournament on a magical Sunday that sent the nation exploding into delirium.

That this triumph was secured in a stadium built to honour the Zambian footballers who perished on April 27, 1993, when their chartered plane went down off the coast of Gabon while they were on their way to a World Cup qualifier, was very special for the people of Zambia.

The success for the Zambians also continued a recent string of sensational victories for Southern African football with South African giants Mamelodi Sundowns stunning the continent as they captured the CAF Champions League crown after beating five-time African champions Zamalek of Egypt.

The Mighty Warriors of Zimbabwe and Banyana Banyana of South Africa also pocketed the two tickets, reserved for African women football teams, at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.

Striker Partson Daka, who scored the opening goal after showing the kind of poacher’s instincts that turned him into a star at this tourney, was named the player of the tournament.

President Lungu congratulated Football Association of Zambia president Andrew Kamanga for providing the right leadership that culminated in the Junior Chipolopolo side ruling the continent.

They became the first hosts to win the tournament.

“As patron of the Football Association of Zambia, I am extremely happy and we give glory to God for the victory. On behalf of Government and the people of the Republic of Zambia and indeed on my own behalf, l wish to extend hearty congratulations to Mr. Andrew Kamanga, the President of FAZ and his entire executive, the Ministry of Youth and Sport including other stakeholders for working hard to organise a successful tournament,” President Lungu said in a statement.

“To the soccer fans, l urge them to continue rallying behind the young players for more goals to be recorded.

“This tournament has shown how the Zambian people love soccer and we have also seen the characteristic nature that this sport has in uniting people regardless of their different background,” the President said.

“As patron of the Football Association of Zambia, I am extremely happy and we give glory to God for the victory. On behalf of Government and the people of the Republic of Zambia and indeed on my own behalf, l wish to extend hearty congratulations to Mr Andrew Kamanga, the President of FAZ and his entire executive, the Ministry of Youth and Sport including other stakeholders for working hard to organise a successful tournament.

“To the soccer fans, l urge them to continue rallying behind the young players for more goals to be recorded.

“This tournament has shown how the Zambian people love soccer and we have also seen the characteristic nature that this sport has in uniting people regardless of their different background.”

President Lungu’s press aide, Amos Chanda, also released a statement in which the President thanked the coaching staff for turning the Zambia Under-20 side into an efficient machine.

“President Lungu also extends congratulations to the technical bench for their commitment towards securing this victory. The President is extremely happy at the consistent and impressive performance that the young Chipolopolo have exhibited since the tournament commenced,” read the statement.

“President Lungu has said the junior soccer team has done the country proud by retaining Zambia’s lost glory in football which the Zambian soccer fans and the general public have been yearning for in a long time after the 2012 Gabon AFCON victory by the senior team.

“The President is confident that the young Chipolopolo has a great future in football hence they should continue to work extremely hard, be disciplined and ensure team spirit for them to perform even better in other tournaments.

“The President has equally extended his gratitude to the visiting teams for having participated in the Under-20 AFCON and wished them well in future tournaments.

“President Lungu has directed the Ministry of Youth and Sport, the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) including other soccer stakeholders to show unwavering commitment towards ensuring that the young Chipolopolo are nurtured to stardom for the country to continue recording success.”

Triumphant coach Beston Chambeshi said they were already working on making a huge impression at the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in May this year.

“It is a sweet victory, it is for the country, we are investing a lot in youth football, the level we have reached shows we are moving in the right direction,” he said.

“I am happy with the way the Zambians came out in numbers to support the team. It is beautiful to be the winners of the trophy.

“It is good to win at home, especially when you are playing before such a crowd and then you win. It is nice; I thank the boys for the job well done.

“It was not easy to play Senegal; it is a strong team with a good coach. I am happy to be part of the winning team.”

March 2017
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