Heart-breaking U-23 losses worry Mwale

GOVERNMENT says it is heart-broken by the poor performance of the Under-23 national team in Senegal and implored Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) to begin preparations for the 2017 U-20 Africa Youth Championship to be held in Zambia.

And Government is confident that Zambia has standard facilities to host the 2017 Under-20 Youth Championship and is willing to invest to ensure the tournament is a success.

Sports minister Vincent Mwale was yesterday visited by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) inspector and manager of U-20 and U-17 tournament facilities, Yasmine el Ehwany, who is in the country to check on Zambia’s preparedness to host the U-20 championships.

“As Government we are committed in ensuring that the tournament will leave a lasting legacy to all soccer enthusiasts across Africa and the world at large. We are aware that it’s costly to host the U-20 tournament but the consolation is that the expected gains for the country outweighs the cost of hosting this tournament,” he said.

He said the Government will not spend much on infrastructure as Zambia boasts of an ultra-modern stadia like the National Heroes’ Stadium.

“Zambia will next year host the International Parliamentary Union conference, if we can host such big event that attracts members from all over the world, we cannot fail to successfully host the U-20 tournament. We have new hotels under construction hence accommodation is not an issue,” he said. Mwale said he was disappointed that the U-23 team could be ejected in group stage when they had experienced players.

He directed FAZ to begin preparations for the U-20 tournament now to avoid the embarrassment of being booted out of the competition in group stage especially as a host nation.

“It is really heartbreaking that a team consisting of experienced players could lose to Tunisia and South Africa. These players have played at national team level, so there is nothing like lacking exposure. We are extremely disappointed that we are closing the year on another poor performance,” he said.

Meanwhile, acting general secretary Julio Chiluba said CAF and Football Association of Zambia have agreed that Lusaka will be the venue for the U- 20 Championship.

Chiluba also announced that National Heroes and Nkoloma Stadium are the playing venues for the tournament.

“The championship will be hosted in Lusaka and not Copperbelt as agreed by CAF and FAZ. The inspector will tomorrow check Heroes and Nkoloma. The training grounds are Independence, Matero, Edwin Imboela, Woodlands and Nationalist stadiums. We will have eight competing teams and am sure that these will be enough.

“On Sunday she will inspect hotels and on Monday conclude with a check on health facilities,” he said.

Zambia was given the mandate to host the 2017 U-20 Africa Youth Championship.