The buck stops with Kamanga, Lwandamina for Zambia’s 2017 Afcon exit

Kamanga centre with his FA counterpart in Red from Guinea Bisau

The Leadership principle of vicarious liability perhaps gives us a view of how critical leadership is to any endeavor in life, and that leaders are ultimately responsible for the individual and delegated team members actions. Zambia’s exit from the 2017 Afcon was as painful as the third goal conceded in the extra of the extra time to end the game 2-3 in favor of Guinea Bissau. Many fans and passive Chipolopolo followers were left in awe of what exactly happened. This disastrous outcome greets Kamanga and his new team in office as a wake up call.

It was indeed a bitter lesson of what happens when a country always insists on starting anew, going back to the drawing board and all such terms we hear so often whenever we experience change. We must quickly learn in Zambia that when we change, it does not mean throwing away everything to start anew. We need to embrace the concept of incremental change, building on the what predecessors have left and not always going for a total overhaul, always seeking transformational change which we are all aware needs exceptional leadership to drive.

We have seen how the replacement of our Zambian Soccer legend Kalusha Bwalya as FAZ president with Andrew Kamanga has been followed by an almost african political style witch hunt for all the soccer administrators that Kalusha groomed and worked with. In the process, destabilizing and scattering all the cumulative knowledge and experience FAZ should treasure that even delivered our first ever Afcon. Kalusha by any standards should remain a life member and consultant to FAZ and Zambian soccer as he one of, if not the best football personality Zambia has ever produced. You may not accept this fact maybe because you are not internationally exposed or have other personal reasons but all reference to Zambian Soccer both within and outside Zambia does not pass without Kalusha’s name being mentioned.

Playing in West and North Africa has it’s well known tactical challenges. These regions are known to through anything at opponents that will make them gain any form of advantage. This is were accumulated knowledge and experience comes in from both the players and administrators. The two goals that Zambia scored came from the most experienced and Afcon winning players on the field, Collins Mbesuma and Chris Katongo. These actions of throwing the baby with dirty water will mean that the nation will be learning the same lessons over and over again as we employ rookies to learn African football at the expense of the national progress.

For the FAZ president Andrew Kamanga, he has to introspect on whether playing teams like the Gambia and Togo constitute a good pedigree of typical West African competitive Football, whether these teams added any value. Zambia is ranked highly and one would expect that Kamanga’s administration could use this position to get more stronger opponents to give his squad better test matches. For George Lwandamina, he is excellent at talent identification and player selection, but his ability to read the game, make punchy substitutions has been heavily questioned. The previous administration had always attached a technical advisor to Lwandamina and perhaps this gap become too apparent in the Guinea Bissau game.

Kamanga is now in the drivers seat. The FAZ presidency is one of the toughest jobs in Zambia due to heavy following and the huge expectations that go with Chipolopolo fans. Kalusha may have had it easy due to his well recorded, well known and obvious nationalistic contribution to Zambia over the years. Because of his legendary status, Zambians to some extent gave him a break even when the team exited the Africa cup in the first round. In any case, he delivered the first Afcon to Zambia as FAZ president with the team captained by Christopher ‘Soldier’ Katongo. Kamanga’s Secretary General, Ponga Liwewe looks good on paper, but it remains to be seen how his works translates on the ground.

Our advise to FAZ is to do what every soccer loving Zambian knows, turn the passion of the Chipolopolo fans to make the local league into a full and lucrative formal business with at least regional repute. We need to start tracking match attendance again and grow these numbers to drive more revenue (gate takings, advertising, licensing etc) for both FAZ and local clubs. Then FAZ can leverage the quality of our local league to drive the performance of our beloved Chipolopolo national team. Our local players in Zambia need to be drilled and be technically prepared to start breaking into the most competitive and tactically advanced leagues in the world, so that this experience can trickle back into Zambia when these players return home and take up administrative and technical roles in our local clubs. The road is well known, it’s about having the will power, the guts and strategic mindset to walk the road.