Zambian football club, Zesco is being applauded as the surprise package of this year’s Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League as they have qualified for the semi-finals, a prestigious stage of this African club championship.
And this is only the second time that you have gone past the preliminaries and the first to reach the semi-finals at the expense of two former winners of this premier continental club championship, Al Ahly of Egypt and ASEC Mimosas of Cote d’Ivoire.
Wydad Casablanca Athletic of Morocco topped the group while Zesco were second. In the semis, Zesco date fellow southern African club Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa while Wydad Casablanca will face five-time winners, Zamalek of Egypt.
For Zamalek, it is the first time since 2005 that they have reached the semis, whilst Wydad last tasted action in the last four in 2011, before losing to Tunisia’s Esperance in the final.
The first leg of the semis will be played on the weekend of 16-18 September and the return on 23-25 September.
Asked how they prepared their players to be focused ahead the games against three former winners of this premier continental club championship, Al Ahly, ASEC Mimosas and Wydad Casablanca, Zesco’s secretary Justin Mumba said they told the players to believe in themselves remain focused and win all the home matches and get one or two draws.
“When Zesco was promoted to the [Football Association of Zambia] Super Division in 2014, we put in place a plan for 10 years that was to win the local league and go far in CAF matches,” said Mumba, who has been with the club for 15 years.
“We have won the local league five times, finished second four times and won the local cup four times. We have been in the CAF Champion League group stage two times.
“Our plan was to run the club on a professional by implementing the FIFA/CAF club licensing. We also made sure the executive members, secretariat staff and coaches underwent training just to develop the skill and knowledge. We kept a good number of players together for a longer time and we brought in players from other countries just to bring in a different dimension in the team.”
In their Group A matches, Zesco drew 1-1 with Wydad Casablanca at home, drew 2-2 away to Al Ahly, drew 1-1 with ASEC Mimosa away and they went on to beat the Ivorians 3-0 at home.
Zesco have participated in CAF Champion League five times and have been to the group stage twice. They have participated in CAF Confederation Cup four times while on the domestic front, Zesco have won the league title five times, finished second in the league four times, won the Zambian Barclays Cup four times.
“The team has grown in confidence and we now believe we can go all the way to the [CAF Champion League] final and [win it] to go and represent Africa at FIFA Club World Cup in Japan,” Mumba said.
And on the strategy to use against meeting fellow Southern African club, Mamelodi Sundowns, who were losing finalists some 15-years ago, Mumba said: “We will prepare just the way we did with the other teams.”
Some of the notable players the team has produced that have donned the national colours include Jacob Banda, Kondwani Mtonga, Cletus Chama, Jackson Mwanza, John Ching’andu and Simon Silwimba.
Zesco also contributed players that won the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon and they were Winstone Kalengo, Rainford Kalaba and Naymbe Mulenga.
They have three players who play for Kenya — David Owino Odihambo, Jesse Were and Anthony Akumu.
They are funded by ZESCO Ltd with Umbro as kit sponsors and Invertrust Bank as shirt sponsors.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :