Sports and National Unity? How PF mediocres tried to politicize Zambia’s AFCON victory

By Austin Mbozi

In his fiction drama book2014: Zambia’s Constitution finally Righted (2007: page 132), Professor Imasiku Imenda, bitterly complains that the Zambia National Soccer Team has no Lozi players. He quotes his fictitious Lozi Prince Isimwaa (as he advocates for the Barotseland Agreement) as saying:

‘We do not even have Lozi people playing soccer in the Zambia National Team, which they have given a very strange name (Chipolopolo). Only those (tribes) who understand the meaning of this strange name play in it—there is no Mwendabi, no Imasiku, no Nalishebo, no Lyambela, no Inambao, no Lubinda. It’s a shame to refer to such a team as a ‘national’ team when it’s so unrepresentative of the various peoples of the country’.

Warning: If the PF hooligan fanatics continue to   politicize soccer, ethnic grievances will follow into the sport

How PF mediocres   tried to politicize Zambia’s victory

Firstly, while ordinary supporters are free to celebrate with any slogans, our capable Zambia captain Mr. Christopher Katongo and our players must simply avoid partisan-associated symbols of identity, such PF’s Don’t Kubeba  or any MMD, UPND etc symbols. Such will divide the national team and also divide us instead of uniting us around our national team. Mr. Katongo may not have known this. But we are advising him.

Secondly, President Sata should reject former Katuba MP Jonas Shakafuswa’s bootlicking attempt by saying Chipolopolo’s win was due to Sata’s inspiration (The Post 11th February) because it can make  Sata appear ridiculous instead of letting him celebrate like other Zambians. The players themselves said they were inspired by the 1993 soccer fallen heroes, not by Sata! Shakafuswa was the deputy minister of Finance when ZANACO was sold ‘for a song’ to Rabobank so he may have his own nightmares  for suddenly bootlicking Sata.

 

If anything compared with all former Presidents, President Sata is the least supporter or contributor to football. Rupiah Banda is number one. He is ex FAZ President, co-owner of Chiparamba soccer academy which produced the likes of Clifford Mulenga, Hichani Himoonde, Jacob Mulenga etc and was actively supporting soccer as Republican President. Kenneth Kaunda indirectly helped the KKX1 as patron and via ZCCM support, Chiluba (Arsenal fun) was a natural soccer fan while Mwanawasa assisted by soliciting Chinese stadium funds. Sata simply has no background. He found this team already qualified to AFCON, and his Government through Fackson Shamenda openly refused to pay Coach Herve Renald! (See article by Reuben Kamanga in the Citizen Gazette for December 2011).  Perhaps that is why, The Post editorial ( 13the February ) which attempted to praise Sata for  ‘being in charge of the burial arrangements’  during the Gabon disaster ended up saying Sata kept cracking jokes? So he was just joking when we were all mourning our national team! It’s Chiluba who organized that funeral.  All Chiluba ministers can claim to have been assigned a role. Yet Sata is claiming self-centered populism that he gave the plot where fallen heroes are buried! (The Post 14th Feb).  Is it Sata’s plot? Then The Post headline ( 15th Feb) read ‘Sata Counsels ‘His’ Champions!’ Are the footballers Sata’s children?  In their usual effort to deceive, it’s no wonder PF ministers contradict each other. Chishimba Kambwili forgets that his predecessor rejected Kalusha’s recruitment of Renald, and now says those opposing Kalusha (apparently the Kamanga-Simataa Simataa faction) should shut up because PF government will support Kalusha! The next thing this overzealous but ignorant Kambwili will get us to is FIFA banning Zambia!   Bootlicking Sata makes people appear like the chickens, ducks and sheep in George Orwell’s Animal Farm who, in soliciting for a higher portion of meals and because like Sata Napoleon had nothing to show for success both as a person and as a leader, had to chant that even the water in the stream now tasted better due to the ‘good leadership of comrade Napoleon’!

Imagine even UPND high breed Given Lubinda claiming Boxer Easter Phiri beat Zimbabwe’s Monalisa Sibanda because ‘Zambia has been winning since September (PF elections)’! Is he joining the PF bullshit! Easter won all her bigger titles under MMD, after with Levy Mwanawasa gave her the PHI house!   And what if Zambia loses the next Africa cup? Should we say PF has lost?                      

                                   How Zambia’s  win united most Zambians

How wonderful it would have been if our politicians worked with as much ethnic harmony as our national team!   The most important thing of this Africa Cup win is that the players that were used at various times during the finals, unlike in the past, represent roughly all the ethnic regions of this nation. Of course most of these players are Lusaka/Copperbelt bred with little links with the villages of their ancestors. Some may be from mixed parentage. Others are themselves mixed-married; like Himoonde  to Charity Mtonga ( an Easterner) and Felix Katongo to Mwaka Nakweti (a Westerner:ex MUVI TV presenter). But at least names traditionally from all regions are represented as follows:  Goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene ( Southern), Francis Kasonde/Joseph Musonda ( Northern-Luapula), Nyambe Mulenga ( Northern-Luapula/Western mix), Stophila Sunzu ( I am not sure) , Hichani Himoonde ( Southern), Nathan Sinkala ( Namwanga-Northern) Davies Nkausu ( Southern),  Chisamba Lungu ( Eastern), Isaac Chansa ( Northern-Luapula), Captain Christopher Katongo ( Northern-Luapula), Rainford Kalaba ( Northern- Luapula),  James Chamanga ( Eastern), Emmanuel Mayuka (Iam not sure), Collins Mbesuma-Kajiya (Northwestern)  and Felix Katongo ( Northern-Luapula).

 

If any players’ parentage come, or if some were  to come, from abroad, such as neighboring countries, Asians or Europe, this would even be better so that we prove that Zambia is a multicultural and multiracial  country!

 

Lusaka and Central Provinces have become so mixed that the indigenous groups from these areas can easily identify with the above. For example the Lenje and Soli are Bantu-Botatwe (Second choice keeper Kalililo Kakonje has a Lenje parent)  , the Lamba can identify with both northerners or North westerners and the Swaka with Northerners.                         

   How sports have divided or united World’s nations

 For the Lozi who feel marginalized as quoted above in Professor Imenda’s book, chances are that the more you celebrate Zambia’s victory, the more you injure their hearts with the anger of marginalization! This divides us rather than unite us.

Their feeling is only humanly natural, as  cases below show:

Case 1.    In the early 1990s, a letter writer in the Post Newspaper listed about eleven Bemba-speaking national soccer players ( mainly those that persished in Gabon and included Charles Musonda, Kalusha Bwalya , and Johnstone Bwalya)  as his evidence that the non-Bemba must accept Bemba superiority and stop complaining about Chiluba’s alleged Bemba-biased appointments.

What do we learn from this? If one region dominates in sports, they will assume general superiority over others, hence causing more national disunity.

Case 2. At the last FAZ AGM in Kabwe, President Kalusha Bwalya in his closing speech condemned ‘tribalism’ as one of the contributing factors to confusion in Zambian football administration. Regardless of the merits of this claim, it’s clear that we must watch out that complaints of tribalism are entering our football!

Case 3. The Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England   have separate national sports teams even when they share the same UK government. Sir Alex Ferguson, the proud Scott,   even went as far as saying that the England FA are proposing that one UK team be  formed all because they wanted him ( to manage England) and Ryan Giggs (to leave The  Wales and play for the ‘struggling’  England).He  rejected the idea.

Puzzling question! Since advocates of Barotseland Agreement argue that they want Zambia’s relationship with Barotseland to be modelled along the UK lines, will they demand their own Barotse National Team?

Case 4. At the 1995 Rugby World Cup, many black South Africans vowed to support any team playing against ‘their’ own national team, the Springboks, because it was dominated by white ‘oppressors’. Yet, as many commentators including ex President FW De Klerk’s autobiography; The Last Trek New Beginnings (page 346), agree that Mandela used the games to unite South Africans. By personally having tea with and encouraging captain Francois Pienaar ( white), going to the stadium wearing Pienaar’s jersey and rejecting  ANC’s demands to change the ‘racist’ springboks name,  he won white hearts to love blacks and, in reciprocal,  to  support SAFA’s  ‘black football’ at the 2010 World Cup.

Later, former President Thabo Mbeki wrote several articles (also published by The Post) , that the Springboks must include blacks. Thus when South Africa won a second World Cup title in 2007,  especially that the key player was a black-colored Bryan Habana, it was attributed to the ‘benefits ‘ of a united, truly multiracial South Africa.

Case 5. When France ( Les Blues) won the soccer World Cup in 1998, it was attributed to French multiculturalism because it had many non-white players like Patrick Vierra, Claude Makelele, Zinedine Zidane, Marcel Desailly, Nicholas Anelka, Tierry Henry, and Lilian Thuram. These players, led by Desailly, decampained National Front aspirant Jean-Marie Le Pen in the 2002 election for opposing black dominance in football. Jacques Chirac won. Political debate continues, with former coach Raymond Domenech facing the pressures to use racial quotas in the team!

Case 6.  Nigerian writer Ken Saro Wiwa ( hanged by Sani Abacha to fighing for Ogoni speaking people’s rights ) in his newspaper article ,’Yoruba-phobia’ complained that the Yoruba speaking Nigerians were grabbing resources from other regions, such as oil from his Ogoni speaking region,  and using it to create a Yoruba hegemony in Nigerian professions, including Sports. This sentiment was confirmed to me while I was studying in Ireland by a Nigerian friend from Southern Nigeria, Dr David Ogmodede. He told me that in Nigeria, the public, players and Presidents are extremely sensitive to which tribe plays in the Nigerian soccer team because each region ( Ibos, Yorubas and Hausa-Fulanis , each with over 35 million people) feels they alone can form a national team (could this explain why Nigerian players seem not too united and zealous when playing for Nigeria but better in their clubs?). It is from David that I was shocked that he knew the tribes of Nigerian players such as, that  Nwanko Kanu, J.J Okocha, Okorokwo etc where Ibos while Taribo West was Hausa-Fulani ! Identifying tribes of players was not common in Zambia.

The lesson from these is that if Zambia had won the African Cup with any one province dominating the team, it would have divided us rather than unite us.

What we must do to get players countrywide

Should we sacrifice merit in order to ethnically balance the tribes in our national team? No!   We must evenly invest in sports development countrywide. This is, I think, Professor Imenda’s point. Previously, our  country’s national team players were from Luapula and Northern Provinces. This was not because they had any superior capabilities as suggested by the Post Newspaper letter cited above or because Government favoured the Bemba. It was only because according to researcher Daniel Posner, Bemba speaking people migrated more to Copperbelt, (where the mines financed soccer),  than tribes from other regions. In fact this is reflected in the fact that Northwestern province, also had many players because they had the second largest wave of migration to copperbet. It produced players like Francis Kajiya (Collins Mbesuma’s father), Peter Kaumba, Obby Kapita etc. Eastern Province had the third largest. So it also contributed the likes of  Patrick Bomber Banda, Samuel Zoom Ndhlovu, and Lucky Msiska etc. Southern had the least migration, so they had relatively few players.

But of late, when mines suffered and football moved to the Lusaka and Southern provinces, other groups such as the Southerners have joined in playing football as we see today.

Every region can produce great players. Let’s invest in all regions so that we choose on merit while each region must be given a change to produce players for contribution. It is for this reason that I was pleased that Senanga United have managed to play in division one South.

So PF, stop politicking football unless you want to bring tribalism in soccer as you have done in politics, Foreign Service, security wings, parastatals etc

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