Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
MILUTIN “Micho’’ Sredojevic wants to take Chipolopolo to the 2022 World Cup finals, a different and bullish approach to the one adopted by his Balkan counterpart Zdravko “Loga’’ Logarusic at the Warriors.
The Croatian, a surprise choice for the Warriors’ top job, feels his new troops can’t make it to Qatar and will only be fighting for second place in a group that also features Bafana Bafana and Ethiopia.
Loga was unveiled by ZIFA last Wednesday while Micho, a Serb who had also applied for the Warriors’ job and was the favourite among the team’s fans, was unveiled as the new Chipolopolo coach in Lusaka on Monday.
In his first radio interview since being named Warriors coach, Loga said he believed the Black Stars of Ghana will win the World Cup qualifying group.
“I could not talk as a supporter, I must talk as a coach. Ghana has many quality players who play much bigger games than against South Africa, and the rest,’’ he told FOX 97.9 FM, a Ghanaian radio station.
“So, in the group, Ghana is absolutely the favourite
“We have to fight for position number 2 because Ghana is definitely likely to finish first.’’
Loga, who has coached extensively at a number of clubs in Ghana during his African adventure, also did not rule out the possibility of one day returning to the West African country to take charge of the Black Stars.
But, while the Croat decided to go for caution, suggesting his Warriors — a team whose collective quality he is yet to see from close range — simply had no chance in the World Cup qualifiers, something some critics fear could deflate the morale of his players, Micho went for broke on Monday.
The Serb even rallied his new Zambian troops to “work like suicide bombers, doing everything to ensure Chipolopolo returns to the Africa Cup and top of African football”.
He said the ultimate mission was to get to the 2022 World Cup finals.
“I want to call it a neurosurgical operation knowing that Chipolopolo, as a (team), is deeply engraved in the heart of Zambians,” Micho said.
“Knowing what football means to you all, as your second religion, and I am fully aware of the responsibilities that are in front of me and I appreciate the past and all the great stakeholders who have built the brand of Zambian football.
“The biggest power given to us in the game of football as coaches is to make people happy.
“In the last 20 years since I came to Africa, millions of people have been happy, and I want to continue in the same fashion.
“I am fully aware of the challenges and issues that are in front of us — two matches have been played in the AFCON qualifiers, we are on zero points, we have scored one and conceded seven.
“I would like to present to you a technical master plan that has seven phases, a dream on top of that pyramid. In those seven phases, we have the dream of going to the World Cup Qatar in 2022.
“Any success in life starts with a dream. I would like us not only to dream when we are sleeping, but even when we are awake with our eyes open.
“We have a right to go beyond the March 26 match against Botswana. The match against Botswana is not played on the 26th, but it is starting to be played now.”
The Serbian gaffer also appeared to take a slight dig at both Zimbabwe and Tanzania, saying he couldn’t understand how the two countries, who are below Zambia on the FIFA rankings, could have players in the English Premiership when his employers didn’t even have any in that league.
Warriors midfielder Marvelous Nakamba joined Aston Villa in August last year and was followed at the Birmingham club by Tanzanian striker Mbwana Samatta, who marked his debut in the Premiership with a goal against Bournemouth on Saturday.
The last Zambian player to feature in the English Premiership was striker Emmanuel Mayuka, who played for Southampton in 2012 before moving to French side Sochaux, the following year, and then joining another French team Metz in 2015.
Although Mayuka is still only 29, peaking in 2012 when he won the Golden Boot at the AFCON finals which the Zambians won, he is back in Zambia and yesterday joined that country’s top-flight side NAPSA Stars.
Another Zambian forward, Collins Mbesuma, also failed to make an impression in the English Premiership at Southampton and was quickly off-loaded.
Micho wants the Zambian players to change their approach to the game and, like their Zimbabwean counterparts, fulfil their dreams of even playing in the English Premiership.
“Some countries below us (Zambia are ranked 88th in the world while Zimbabwe are ranked 111th and Tanzania 134th) have players in the English Premier League,’’ Micho said at the unveiling ceremony.
“You know it is painful that countries below Zambia have players in Aston Villa, all countries are watching Mbwana Samatta playing for Aston Villa, yet ourselves we have none.
“I come from a country (Serbian) that has produced many top players in Europe, yet we are only seven million. We are going to do this for the Zambian people, the President (Edgar Lungu), and everybody.
“Our new motto is never to give up. We shall work like suicide bombers, doing everything to ensure Chipolopolo returns to the Africa Cup and top of African football.
“It’s very painful to watch the Africa Cup and Chipolopolo is not there.
“They (Zambian players) have to pull their socks so that they are not cry-babies or excuse lookers or blame shifters, but that they are taking responsibility fully and are aware that wherever they have been signed, they have been signed as players to make a difference.
“Some of them are making a difference, some of them are not making a difference. Those that are making a difference should keep up making a difference, those that are not making a difference (should) use this period, until the transfer window, to be ready for the possible challenge.
“I would like, from this moment, in the shortest possible honeymoon, to go back to the realities of life and that is finding the modalities that will bring Chipolopolo back to being the pride of Zambia.’’
FAZ president Andrew Kamanga revealed Micho was an easy choice for the selectors as his master plan was in sync with what they wanted and could be fulfilled in the Zambian environment.
Zambia and Zimbabwe are in the same AFCON qualifying group and the Warriors beat Chipolopolo 2-1 in Lusaka last year.