President Rupiah Banda has encouraged the Chipolopolo to remain focused, determined and work hard as they tackle their Group D opponents during the 27th Orange Africa Cup of Nations.
The president, who is also Patron of the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ), delved into history to hearten and inspire the Chipolopolo to fight to the last whistle in every game.
The president met the Chipolopolo at Luanda’s Four Feveiro International Airport as the Zambia National Team arrived from Johannesburg en route to the southern city of Lubango.
“I will share a bit of history with you to show you how great a nation we are. Our football dates way back to the first half of the last century when many countries had no football. As far back as 1974 I was with the team in Egypt for the Nations Cup finals. We started our games in a little town and everyone never gave us a chance. We played the best in Africa and we beat them all and went all the way to the final against Congo. In the final we drew the first game but missed out on winning the trophy in the replay. It happened again in 1994 when Kalu (FAZ President) led a young team, which was written off. But we went to the final and even took the lead against Nigeria before they scored twice to deny us that championship,”
RB, as the president is fondly referred to, added: “What we can take from that great history is that when we get on the pitch it is 11 players against 11 players. You’re great players and a wonderful team and following your results in training against Nigeria and Korea, who you beat 4-2, I know and our people have hope that we can go all the way in this tournament.”
RB and Kalusha dug into their memory to give the players insight into their 1984 CECAFA experiences, the 4-1 victory against Cameroon, the 4-0 demolition of Mali in the semifinals of the 1994 Nations Cup and other Chipolopolo experiences, despite going into the tournament as underdogs.
The president then took time to meet all the players and officials; encouraging them to work hard.
“Having been in football for a long time, I know it is never easy, but we can do it. You have our best wishes and our people’s best regards. Go and do your best and we will remain proud of you because by just being here you’re among the best 16 on the continent. I’m proud to have accepted the invitation to come and witness the opening ceremony among other presidents. For me it is even gratifying that I’m not only attending but have my team, our team, competing as well,” the president said.