The Chipolopolo's dream of a remarkable comeback was dashed by a 3-3 draw with Algeria on the fifth day of the qualifiers last weekend. This point does not change the fate of the Zambians in the race for the 2021 AFCON. This clash of extremes was their last joker in these qualifiers and they simply paid the price of a catastrophic start. A national disappointment as Zambia has lost popularity on the continent since their 2012 exploits when they won the AFCON.
Regrets from the Minister of Sport
Milutin 'Micho' Sredojevic's men are, in fact, paying for their poor start to the campaign. For the most optimistic, their three opening defeats condemned them to an improbable feat. The more pessimistic ones, on the other hand, had already realised that these defeats were destroying all their chances of qualification. "If we hadn't lost those games, I think we would have been in a better position to qualify," said Sports Minister Emmanuel Mulenga.
These words alone show the extent of the Zambians' disappointment. In fact, to hear the minister talk, the Chipolopolo would not have done what was necessary to avoid such a disillusionment. "We have to treat every game with the importance it deserves, whether it is the first or second game. We should not wait until the end to say 'if we win this game, we have a chance to qualify'," says Emmanuel Mulenga.
Towards a school league?
But every cloud has a silver lining. The non-qualification of the Chipolopolo could, in fact, change things. "We must review our strategies. Our job as a ministry is to make sure we introduce a league in schools. From grade 1 to grade 12, students should have a league," Mulenga argues. Quite a program. In the meantime, the Chipolopolo conclude their qualifying campaign in Zimbabwe on Monday. And it is more than just a match for honor as Zimbabwe has already secured their place for the showpiece in Cameroon come 2022.