With focus in the Zambian game shifting to the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, one of the top legends, James Chamanga has rendered his thoughts ahead of the qualifiers that the Chipolopolo will join in June at the group stage.

Chamanga, a 2012 Africa Cup of Nations winner and still standing tall at 42 in Red Arrows colours believes the current crop of players have what it takes to steer Zambia to the 2023 Ivory Coast Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

Chamanga, alias Djemba-Djemba expressed confidence in the players’ capacity to deliver on behalf of the millions of Zambians but was quick to challenge the players to set their ambitions high if they are to qualify to the pinnacle of African football.

Next year’s qualifiers start in March next month with the preliminary rounds set to produce six nations that will qualify to the group stages of the qualifiers where Zambia and other highly ranked nations will join the fray in June.

“We are looking forward to the qualifiers. I advise the players to feel the pain that the Zambian people are feeling and try to write their names in the history books by qualifying to the AFCON,” the 42-year-old said.

The 2012 AFCON winner is no stranger to success; during his time in South Africa, he played for Bush Bucks, SuperSport United and Moroka Swallows. It was at Swallows where he was crowned the 2007/8 Premier Soccer League’s top scorer despite leaving the league prematurely with 14 goals in 21 games.

He left South Africa for Asia where he featured for Dalian Shide and Liaoning FC in China, and was later appointed Technical Director at the China League One side. Holding back nothing, Chamanga called on the players to continuously put in their best ahead of the AFCON qualifiers in June.

“The first game of the qualifiers will be very important. There is need for the players to work as a team and forget where they are coming from. They need to work as a unit and remember us who fully love the national team and the nation as well,” Chamanga said.

The Red Arrows striker said the public should judge the current crop of their players based on their ability to deliver on the pitch as they were still bonding to be one.

“We need to give the full support (to the players), I know Zambians love football and want the results but everything goes with time. Even we experienced the same, we didn’t just come in the picture and did everything within a year or two, so it’s the same with these young players,” the 2019/20 MTN Super League Top scorer said.

“Most of them are from the U20 (that won the 2017 U20 AFCON) and we have a few experienced players who we need to give maximum support by coming out in numbers especially during the home qualifier games because all of us want the national team to qualify.”

Having appeared at the Africa Cup at the 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013 editions, Chamanga said playing at the continental showpiece comes with a lot of pride and required the players to have the heart of the people in order to be among the participants next year.

“I can’t explain the feeling (of playing at the Africa Cup). The pride that it brings to you, your family and the nation is amazing. They should just remember to play football for a reason and leave a positive mark. We have passed our glory days and we are looking for glory days to come from these players,” Chamanga said.

It looks like the curtains are not closing on Chamanga’s career. In the current season, he has featured in the CAF Confederation Cup with Red Arrows and continues to be instrumental for the Zambia Air Force sponsored side who are commanding a five-point lead at the summit of the table.

“Football is my life; I have lived football my entire life. I want to transfer what I have done for the nation to the young ones so that they can also do the same,” Kamanga said.

“My glory cannot last forever; we need to have new glory so I am still continuing to play because of these young players. Once I see the national team is doing fine, I am sure I will be happy to my time has come to step down and do something else.”

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