THE junior Chipolopolo Boys have declared an end to the 27 years drought since Zambia featured at the Olympics ahead of this weekend’s CAF Under-23 Africa Championship in Senegal.
In an interview before the team’s departure for Senegal at Lusaka’s Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (KKIA) yesterday, coach Fighton Simukonda said all the teams at the tournament are a threat but the target is to qualify for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.
The soft-spoken Simukonda said the boys had been training hard and will not go there to participate but compete.
“The competition is very tough, but we have been working hard. There is no small team at the tournament, every team is a threat. Our target is to qualify for Brazil Olympics. I have a formidable team that can bring that dream to life,” he said.
He said the players that have feature at the national team in the past matches have gained enough exposure ahead of the championship.
“It is good experience for the boys that have played at national team level like goal keeper Toaster Nsabata, Boyd Mkandawire among others. I feel it’s an advantage to our side since the boys already have the exposure,” he said.
Meanwhile, U-23 captain goalkeeper Toaster Nsabata said Senegal was the biggest threat to the team because they had the home advantage.
“Senegal is our strongest rival, they have the home advantage but we cannot afford to lose,” Nsabata said. He expressed confidence in his teammates that they would not put up a disappointing show in Senegal.
“The primary goal is to book a slot at the Olympics. Yes we want to lift the title but if not, qualification to Brazil is a must. I feel the experience gained from the national team will help push the other guys,” he said.
Defender Benedict Chepeshi said he has enough experience to play on Senegalese soil after his first encounter at the under-20 African championship.
“I was there during the under-20 championship a few months ago, and I know the Senegalese atmosphere. I am optimistic that I will do better than last time, I have the experience now. We just need to work as a team and ensure we qualify to Brazil,” he said.
Zambia is in group A alongside hosts Senegal, Tunisia and regional rivals South Africa.
The junior Chipolopolo Boys will kick off their campaign for a slot at the Rio Olympics against Tunisia this Saturday.
U-23 squad has Goalkeepers: Toaster Nsabata, Kenny Mumba and Lawrence Mulenga.
Defenders: Benedict Chepeshi, Boyd Mkandawire, Taonga Bwembya, Kapota Kayawe, Solomon Sakala and Billy Mutale.
Midfielders: Jackson Chirwa, Paul Katema, Benson Sakala, Salulani Phiri, Spencer Sautu, John Ching’andu and Lubambo Musonda.
Strikers: Ronald Kampamba, Patrick Ngoma, Conlyde Luchanga, Obrey Chirwa and Friday Samu.