VETERAN sports administrator, Simataa Simataa, has hailed the victorious Under-23 national soccer team that dispatched Ivory Coast via a 4-3 post-match penalty score line on Saturday to qualify to the Senegal 2015 African championships.
The match ended in a barren draw which forced the two teams to go into a dramatic penalty shootout in which Toaster Nsabata’s heroic saves granted the Young Chipolopolo Boys victory.
Simataa told the Daily Nation yesterday that the technical bench had done a good job by ensuring that the team overcame their West African opponents to qualify to the continental event where they will have a chance to qualify to the Rio 2016 Winter Olympics.
The veteran soccer administrator praised Under-23 coach Fighton Simukonda for guiding the team to the important victory over the Young Elephants after recording a draw in Ivory Coast in the first leg over a fortnight ago.
“First of all I would like to say congratulations to Fighton Simukonda for the win that the team registered on Saturday. The team worked very hard and the technical bench should be commended for the job well done,” Simataa said.
He called on Simukonda to fine-tune the team to ensure that it was in good shape before the Senegal tournament by working on the weaknesses that were exposed during the Ivory Coast game.
“Simukonda should now work on the weaknesses that were exposed during the game to ensure that the mistakes they made in the match were addressed before the team goes to the tournament. He should be given an opportunity to work on the team between now and December,” he said.
He observed that proper planning between now and December will be key to the team’s performance and has implored the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) to ensure that the Junior Chipolopolo were adequately prepared if they were to qualify to the Brazil tournament next year.
He noted that there was need to increase the camping period of the players as training for a short period before the tournament had a negative impact on the performance as has been the case in the past.
He explained that if resources were available the team needed to have a training tour in which they could play several friendlies so that they could blend well as they go to Senegal towards the end of the year.
“We have enough time between now and the time when the team will leave for the tournament in December and that is why we need to utilise this time so that we adequately prepare the team before it leaves for Senegal. FAZ should provide resources to ensure that the team’s training is enhanced.
“If we have resources, we should as well think of organising a tour of other countries so that the players can be in camp together for a long time,” he said.
Zambia last Saturday eliminated Ivory Coast via a shootout to book a place at this year’s African championships.
Should Zambia finish among the top three teams in Senegal, then the team will automatically qualify to the Olympics where they will be making a maiden appearance since 1988 after a 27-year hiatus.