By John Chinode II
28/06/2019 - ZIMBABWE were crowned the winners of the Afcon UK 2019 held at West Ham Memorial Park last weekend. Zambia, this year was represented by Team Zambia UK, who were drawn in a very tough group with defending champions Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda. It was an early morning first game against an experienced Nigerian side, composed of ex high-level seasoned players who have played topflight football previously. The Zambian team was made up of the best Under-23 players who are currently playing semi-pro or professional FA amateur teams.
Zambia was beaten 4 - 1 by Nigeria following two defensive errors in the first half by goalkeeper Lindi Sakala and defender Alozie Ohuonu. In the second half coach, Sakala substituted Isaac Khondowe replacing him with his cousin, Daniel Acquaye who both play for Bromley FC. Just under ten minutes in the second half, Zambia was awarded a free kick 25 yards away and young Acquaye was assigned the task. He curled it right over the wall into the top left-hand corner for Zambia’s first goal at the tournament, and arguably one of the best goals of the tournament from the 17-year-old midfielder.
Tanzania faced Zambia in the second match. This was after the East Africans 1-1 draw against fellow regional neighbours Uganda in an earlier match. The match kicked off with both Tanzania and Zambia looking for an early goal. The match ended 2-2 with Zambia scoring both goals by 21-year old Niza Chilufya, whom coach
Sakala said he is a ‘beast in front of goals’ as he kept the Tanzanian defence busy for the entire 90 minutes and was definitely the man of the match. Niza, a seasoned player having previously signed for Macclesfield FC and had a call up with Chipolopolo under- 20 in Zambia.
The third game against Uganda saw coach Sakala making some technical changes bringing in semi-professional 19-year old goalkeeper Barrack Ngoma, currently under contract with Wanderers FC. He made some very important saves for Zambia but suffered a hamstring injury in the second half, putting Zambia at a disadvantage. Ngoma was replaced by ‘ice-cool’ defender x Lyando. Zambia was down 2-1 and it was the man of the moment 21- year old Prinston Sichali who picked up a loose ball 30 meters away, to beat a defender and striking the ball, right into the top right-hand corner of the net for Zambia’s equalizer. It was in the dying minutes of the match when Uganda took advantage of a schoolboy error by the Zambian midfield and scored past the legs of the goalkeeper, to give Uganda the win of the day.
Zambian coach Sakala who is an ex semi-professional player with Chelsea, Brighton and Hendon FC said, “We have only been together as a team under just three months and our players are only starting to get to know each other on and off the pitch’’.
“Moving forward, we have a great foundation of young players who can contribute to Zambian football and also help unite the community in the UK, as football is there to unite us”.
Zimbabwe beat defending champions Nigeria in the final winning the cup for the first time. Team Zimbabwe UK Technical Director Wellington Muringai speaking on Ben TV Breakfast Show said, “What we have done this year to win this tournament is improving on our structures even if it’s community football, we need to do things in a professional way”.
Chairperson Chilufya Kaenga who led Team Zambia UK with Mwila Chabala and Mwenya Mulenga wrote on Team Zambia UK’s Facebook page stating, “I want to say thank you to the Football Association of Zambia for showing your support by donating jerseys which our players really loved wearing. Also, thank you to Basement Entertainment for work you put into the creation of our logo and flyers. Thank you, Dotcom Zambia, for your sponsorship by paying for the accommodation for our players who travelled all the way from Manchester. “