The past few days have been exciting for the entire football family in Zambia. The Zambia U-20 men’s national football team made us proud after they won the 2016 COSAFA U20 Youth Championship by defeating hosts and defending champions South Africa on Friday.
The victory is testimony that the work we have put in, since assuming office nine months ago, is beginning to bear fruit. It is a job we performed together as a nation and I can only thank our patron, His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu who has done a fantastic job in supporting the Football Association of Zambia. He has supported football through and through and has been our all-weather friend.
I am also especially gratified that the Minister of Youth, Sport and Child Development Hon Moses Mawere was in attendance at the Moruleng Stadium to watch the team in the final and as you saw he went to lift the trophy with the boys.
The support we receive from government and other stakeholders can only spur us to continue working hard. The work of preparing the team for the 2017 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations competition which starts in February must continue. It did not end with our triumphant outing in South Africa. It was only the beginning of what we want to achieve. The victory in the Cosafa Youth Championship gives us hope that our efforts are not in vain as shown by the results.
We were using the tournament in South Africa to gauge the preparedness of the team and we were satisfied with the performance and the results. But we still need to do more. Remember, if we reach the semi-final of the Africa U-20 Cup of Nations, we are going to qualify to the Fifa U-20 Men’s World Cup. That is our target. We need to get these boys to get used to playing at the World cup at youth level so that they can aspire to play the next Africa Cup of Nations and also the 2022 Fifa World Cup.
That is why in order to prepare the team adequately for the upcoming tournament we want to give them adequate international friendly matches in addition to camping them in Europe. All the plans are in place; we have got two friendlies and camping in Spain lined up. We want the team to be ready as we approach the tournament.
My Executive Committee and I have had a very tough transition but we still have a mandate of four years. We will continue to put in more effort in order to bring good results. We must show commitment which must be reflected on the field of play. Our boys played the best football I have seen at U-20 level and I see quite a number of the youngsters making it into the senior team. Our victory in the Cosafa U-20 Championship is an example of what we should expect.
Last but not least, I thank the Zambian supporters and ask them to continue supporting the team. Even the U17 men’s team is doing very well. The performances by our U-17, U-20 and U-23 players gives me hope that their addition to the senior national team will lead to a strong national team in the next year or so.