What does Zambia's victory teach us?


So many questions have been raised to try to explain the Zambia national football team victory in the AfricanNations Cup 2012.
Most people believe that the spirits of their compatriots who died in 1993 was one of the reasons of their amazing and welcome success by the entire continent.

Herve Renard, who proved to be a tactical maestro in turning a relatively good team into an African champion, also believes something beyond the obvious was responsible for the historic win.
“They found the strength and the motivation and I don’t know from where,” said Renard about his players. “It just felt right for all of us and for Zambia, but it wasn’t because of me. I don’t know where it came from, we were not the best team but we had a force that pushed us and made us African champion.”

As always, there are a number of key decisions that can ensure stability and bring success and Zambia wasn’t afraid to make their own path to victory, no matter what.
We all knew of the abundance of talent this country possess, they have truly gifted footballers, but it was more about how they managed them and how they setup their team that made a difference: respect the players and nurture their talents.

Obviously, a good coach was still needed.
Without any doubt, Zambia did hire the right man for the job in Herve Renard, soon after their qualification for the CAN 2012.
He, previously, was in charge of the Zambia national team, taking them to the quarterfinals once and after a qualification stage under a previous manager, the Zambia FA were not convinced that it would be enough to take them further in the competition. For some, the fact that Zambia would be at the CAN 2012 was already a success but for the Zambia FA president, Kalusha Bwalya, going through to the last 4 or the final was a real possibility.

19 years ago, 18 members of the Zambia national team perished in a plane crash in Libreville (Gabon), a dramatic and painful experience for the Zambia at the time and especially for Kalusha Bwalya, who should have been in the plane if it wasn’t for some contract circumstance with his current club that year.

Herve Renard resume in Africa came from his time as manager for the Ghana and Angola national team, and the experience gained from that was at least enough to the Zambia FA. They needed a coach that they could learn from and gave him all the necessary support. Kalusha Bwalya knew that he was the right type of manager to lead the team and to deliver stability, but he probably never dreams that the Frenchman would be able to take Zambia all the way to the end, to African football heaven, to become 2012 African Champions.
Many countries in Africa assemble their national team and for most of them mainly with players coming from England, France, Spain… and other part of Europe. A lot of them are well paid professional and for some national icon (Drogba, Demba Ba, Yaya Touré) coming to the national team with their own ego which doesn’t always suit the rest team.

Zambia didn’t assemble a team; they have built one from scratch.  

The Zambia FA went back to the drawing board and started building a new team around a stable organisation under the lead of Kalusha Bwalya, a national hero and role model. Their players have been played together from the Under-17 level and went to the Under-20s together, then you have a number of them who were part of the under-23 teams and this has been the blueprint of their current success, building a team around players that know each other well and have a deep understanding of each other skill and football abilities.

You look at their team during the final against Ivory Coast and it featured four players under 22, two players under 23 and only two players over 30, the complete opposite of their opponent that day.
Few countries in Africa have had trust in young players and still rely on players past their prime at the expense of emerging and promising talents.

Another problem in African football has been the multiples divisions some local FA has to face: religion, ethnic, tribal…
Divisions, in some country, have been a huge obstacle to national team success, unfortunately.

To quote Kalusha Bwalya : “In Zambia we have fewer resources than most African countries and less funding to promote our sport,  but when it comes to play for the national team, we all stick together for one cause, our country and this make a huge difference.”

Since last week, they are AFRICAN CHAMPIONS and the pride of the continent.

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