|Kalusha Bwalya, left, president of Zambia’s Football Association, said it was essential for Zambian players to gain exposure and experience in Europe to build the national team of the future [Reuters]|
Zambia’s unprecedented, against-the-odds win in the Africa Cup of Nations could inspire the continent’s other unfashionable teams to qualify for the World Cup, according to Kalusha Bwalya, the president of the FA and the finest player the country has produced.
Zambia’s largely unknown team upstaged Senegal, Ghana and Ivory Coast, all teams brimming with well-known European-based talent, to take the trophy for the first time this month.
It was a hugely emotional event as Zambia beat Ivory Coast in the final in Gabon, playing only a few miles from the site of a plane crash which killed 18 national team members in 1993 as they travelled to Senegal for a World Cup qualifier.
“It’s psychological shift to think you can beat these teams and these players who people watch on television, week in, week out,” Bwalya told news agency reporters at FIFA headquarters.
“We were able to beat them or match them man for man. I think we have the right kind of pedigree and right kind of ambition to try and qualify for the World Cup.”
The main phase of the African World Cup qualifying competition starts in June with 40 teams vying for five places in Brazil in 2014. Of those teams, 27, including Zambia, have never played at the finals before.
Guinea, Burkina Faso, Gabon and Mali are among those with serious intentions of breaking their duck, along with Zambia themselves.
“I think our football can speak for itself, I think we play good football, it’s not like our team is always defending,” said the 48-year-old who has also coached the national side.
“Our team can never defend, our team attacks and I’m sure other teams will be wary of meeting us.”
However, Bwalya said Europe’s clubs tended to look only towards the continent’s traditional powers such as Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Ghana when signing African players.
“I just hope they can believe more in the other teams,” said Bwalya, who escaped the plane crash because he was playing for Dutch club PSV Eindhoven at the time and was travelling separately to the game.
Zambia’s current squad has only one player based with a first division club, Young Boys Berne’s Emmanuel Mayuka. The rest of the squad are split mostly between clubs at home, in South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo or China.
Bwalya said it was essential for Zambian players to move to Europe if the country was to progress.
“Most of the scouts always go and end up in West Africa and that’s it, they don’t come to where we are. There have been some people contacting the players and I hope that from this team, three or four players can be able to go even to England. “
– Kalusha Bwalya
“Most of the scouts always go and end up in West Africa and that’s it, they don’t come to where we are,” said Bwalya.
“There have been some people contacting the players and I hope that from this team, three or four players can be able to go even to England.
“I’m sure the teams won’t be disappointed, I would appeal to them to also figure in our players because it can only help us, the more players you have playing in the top leagues, the better it will be eventually.”
He was not worried that Zambia could lose their unity if some of the players became household names, with all the trappings that brings.
“As Zambians, we have never had any problems in terms of tribes and things, and no civil war, I think we are different in that respect,” he said.
“This team has been together, eighty per cent of the players were together in 2006 and you can see the boys know each other very well.”