HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsZambia: a soccer-crazed nation

Zambia: a soccer-crazed nation


I have never seen anything like that in my whole life. I was in Zambia when the national team, Chipolopolo, clinched the Afcon trophy last Sunday and believe me it was a very emotional experience for Zambians.
The mood was just electric.

The celebrations to mark this occasion started soon after the game on Sunday night and what I saw was just unbelievable.

I watched men, women and children as they danced and sang with their flag raised high. Zambians are no doubt a soccer-crazed people. This was a victory that united all Zambian political parties in celebration of the Chipolopolo victory.

Many people wore the Zambian flag colours in the form of fabric known as chitenge. Whoever came up with this idea must have made millions of kwachas because everybody that I saw in Kitwe on the Copper Belt had these chitenges adorning cars and the flags were an instant hit.

My sister Felicia joined the frenzy and she tells me she has been wearing Zambia colours since that victorious day. The words Go, Zambia, go! were emblazoned on the different scarves and chitenges.

With hindsight, maybe the Zambians were lucky to wear their green strip and not the unlucky orange colour, which has seen polished national sides like Holland and Ivory Coast become perennial bridesmaids, according to a colleague, Foster Dongozi.

The chitenges cost K15 000 (US$3) but the figures rose overnight to K25 000 (US$5) but that did not deter people from buying the fabric.

When the whistle was blown to end the game, fireworks were hurled into the air. The roads were impassable and it is no wonder some people were hit by a car driven by a soccer-crazed fan in Kitwe.

However, what tickled me most were the men and women who probably had retired to bed who dashed out in their nighties and underwear. How I wished for a camera that night! I saw three men with pot bellies who were clad in their bhamba (mens briefs). It was such a spectacle.

The Zambians pulled together as one Zambia one nation, a slogan that was coined by former president Kenneth Kaunda.

Both former presidents, Kenneth Kaunda and Rupiah Banda, were part of the people that went to cheer the team in Gabon. It was indeed a humbling experience.

Chief Kanyensha of the Swaka people in Mkushi district of Central Province in Zambia has since pledged cattle and 250 hectares of land and cattle to the Zambia national soccer team goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene. The Zambian government has also pledged support for the team by giving them houses.

Widows of the team that died in a crash in Gabon in 1993 expressed both sorrow and joy during a television interview in Lusaka.

The widows spoke on television in Zambia saying this development had finally brought closure to them after the tragedy.

We would like to thank President (Michael) Sata for his wondrous support for the national team, said one widow.

Unconfirmed reports claim that commercial sex workers in Zambias shanty compounds had offered their services free of charge to every Jim and Jack as their contribution to the national celebration.

On my way back to Harare, I took a walk around Kamwala Market in Lusaka where I came across a woman who said her younger sister and her friends were involved in this sex scandal. That was confirmed by many other vendors at the market describing the whole scenario.

At least 10 people died during the soccer celebration and this prompted Zambian President Sata to issue a public statement condemning police that had failed to control crowds at the airport and the stadium where the team was expected to meet their fans.

He has since promoted a woman as Inspector-General of police, the equivalent position to Augustine Chihurus Commissioner-General post.

Stella Libongani aged 39 publicly took oath and has now become the youngest and the first ever woman Inspector-General of police in the history of Zambia in an unprecedented move. Shortly afterward, six women officers were elevated to positions of commissioners and placed in charge of some provinces.

Sata has been emulated by Zambians who have viewed him as a pacifier in Zambian politics.

The gesture he extended to Kaunda and Banda of attending the Afcon finals in Gabon only demonstrated that he was a mature politician who was interested in seeing Zambia work.

I have never really liked soccer here in Zimbabwe because of the never-ending soccer squabbles at Zifa.

The win by Chipolopolo has rekindled my love for the game. Many Zambian companies gave so much for the soccer players. Four chartered planes took supporters to Gabon. First Quantum, a leading mineral company, and many other big firms ensured the national team was sufficiently funded.

I always wonder why Zimbabwes national team has not made significant strides. Can someone please tell us what is really wrong with our soccer?

Zimbabwe must make soccer more exciting. Isnt it strange that this team always does not have money to send them to some tournaments?

Zambia has indeed done southern Africa proud. Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) felled the Elephants of Cte dIvoire.

Kindly send your feedback to rmapimhidze@newsday.co.zw.

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