From Petros Kausiyo in RUBAVU, Rwanda
ZAMBIAN coach George Lwandamina has defended his decision to call on veteran striker Christopher Katongo to lead his African Nations Championships campaign arguing that the 34 year-old forward’s vast experience is key to Chipolopolo’s title aspirations.
Lwandamina yesterday made no secret of his intention to guide Chipolopolo to CHAN glory and reckoned that he needed the experienced legs of midfielder Isaac Chansa and Katongo as the Zambians make only their second appearance in this competition.
There have been questions on the rationale of the Zambian gaffer to include an ageing striker and midfielder for tournament largely designed by the Confederation of African Football to develop talent.
But Lwandamina maintained that his team needed balance and Katongo and Chansa brought the right kind of experience he needs for his class of homegrown talent.
Katongo captained Zambia to the 2012 African Nations Cup success in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea and critics felt the coach could have opted for younger players for the CHAN tournament.
“Since 2009 we have not qualified for CHAN and we have tried to get experience in every tournament. Yes we have experience but we also have many young players so it works in many ways.
“You cannot have a team of just youngsters, you need experience because of the interaction if players on and off the pitch and having players like him will make our team grow. We also have other assignments coming up after CHAN and we are using this competition to build for those games.
“So I am sure Chris and Isaac will provide the guidance that this team needs on and off the field,’’ Lwandimana said.
The former Jomo Cosmos man who has also played professional football in Denmark, Germany and Greece as well as China, also defended his decision to accept the call of duty.
“We have a balanced team. We can’t have all young players what is important is to work as a team. Some people may say that I am too old but in our language whoever is carrying the bag of salt knows the weight of the bag and for me I know how heavy the salt is and I know I still have the legs to carry me.
“I not yet finished as a player and when you are playing football there is no young and old whether it is CHAN or AFCON because whatever results will impact on our FIFA rankings.
I want to win another trophy with Zambia and my impact on this team will come on the field and I am blessed to be back from national team and I dream to fulfil and hopefully we can have a good tournament and show that Zambia has the talent,’’ said Katongo. His coach Lwandamina also spoke about the need for Chipolopolo to win today’s match against Zimbabwe but remained cautious on his assessment of the Warriors.
“Every game between Zimbabwe and Zambia has been crucial and I am sure we are ready for the challenge. “It will not be easy because Zimbabwe have the CHAN experience but we need a win so that we have the impetus.
“If we lose it will need us to have a strong emotional fibre to bounce back in the other two group games but value all our group opponents, they are the same,’’ Lwandimana said.