4 January 2012
THE Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) is arranging two international friendly matches against Namibia and Kenya to help prepare the squad for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) soccer tournament that kicks off on January 21.
The Chipolopolo boys, who are currently shaping up in South Africa, have lined up an international friendly match against that country’s Bafana Bafana, but the hosts may not use a full strength squad after some ABSA Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs refused to release their players.
Herve Renard will play South Africa on January 11 at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Pretoria, while arrangements are being made to have the team play Namibia and Kenya after the Botswana friendly fell off.
FAZ general secretary George Kasengele told MTNFootball.com that talks were still ongoing to play the two nations.
“We are still talking to Namibia and Kenya about playing Zambia in South Africa before the team heads to the Africa Cup, but I must stress that nothing is confirmed yet,” Kasengele said.
Kasengele said plans are under way to play one or both teams on separate window dates of January 7 or 14.
However, it is unlikely Zambia will play Kenya on January 14. This is because Kenya have a confirmed friendly against Zambia’s Africa Cup Group A opponents, Senegal on that date in Dakar.
Zambia has been camped in South Africa from December 27 until January 18, when the team is scheduled to leave for Equatorial Guinea ahead of the January 21 opening Group C game against Senegal.
And Zambiafooball.net reports that Zambia’s Christopher ‘Tsunami’ Katongo has urged his teammates to stay calm and contain the massive pressure from the Chipolopolo fans who have asked the team to reach atleast the semi-final, a target which has also been set by French born trainer Herve Renard.
Speaking on the New Year’s eve at the team’s training base at Johannesburg’s Milpark Garden Court, the Chipolopolo captain said though the expectations from the fans were high, the players had to remain calm.
“I think the expectations are high, we don’t have to give ourselves a lot of pressure. We know the Zambian people want us to do more than we did in 2010,” said the 29- year-old who will be at his fourth African Cup of Nations since making his debut appearance at the Egypt 2006 edition.
Meanwhile, Bafana Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane has called up five new players to the squad that will play Equatorial Guinea in Bata on Friday.
Goalkeepers Darren Keet (Kortrijk, Belgium) and Brilliant Khuzwayo (Thanda Royal Zulu), defenders Ayanda Gcaba (Free State Stars) and Wayne Arendse (Santos), and midfielder Sibusiso Vilakazi (BidVest Wits) have all been added to the squad after yet another club versus country wrangle.
The five will replace players from Orlando Pirates, Golden Arrows and Mamelodi Sundowns. The three clubs did not release their players for the aforementioned away friendly games and for two scheduled home games involving Zambia and Ghana.
It follows the withdrawal of Wayne Sandilands, Katlego Mphela, Teko Modise, Themba Zwane (all Sundowns), Thanduyise Khuboni (Lamontville Golden Arrows), Siyabonga Sangweni, Andile Jali, Moeneeb Josephs, Daine Klate and Oupa Manyisa (all Orlando Pirates).
All the overseas-based players will leave soon after the Equatorial Guinea encounter. Defender Anele Ngcongca has been withdrawn from the squad after his Belgian club did not grant him permission to attend camp.
Vice-captain Siphiwe Tshabalala will not be part of the squad as he is undergoing trials overseas with English Championship side Crystal Palace.
The matches involving Zambia and Ghana will still go ahead although they have now been turned into non-official practice matches.
“The South African Football Association (SAFA) was fully aware that the proposed friendly fixtures fell out of the FIFA calendar and, as a result, posed challenges with regards to player release. But as an association, we are happy that we are still able to help the coach with his plans of preparing the team for AFCON 2013 and 2014 Brazil,” said acting SAFA president Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana.
These issues were discussed at the Joint Liaison Committee Meeting, whose members comprise SAFA and Premier Soccer League (PSL) officials where it was agreed that no club would be compelled to release players.
“Therefore, we have had to call up additional players to fill the gap created by the non-availability of some players. It is a blow not to have some of our regular players but this will give others an opportunity to prove their mettle,” said coach Mosimane.
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