Blog: Solomon, come forth… Zambian football needs you

THAT much-coveted seat on the Confederation of African Football (CAF) executive has turned out to be the proverbial cat among the pigeons, or the fifth wheel on the car that is Zambian football.

The pigeons aren’t so much cooing with nervousness as shrieking in angst and frustration as the saga unfolds…and the deadline for CAF’s intervention draws nigh.

Visit any Zambian football social media chat-room and you are struck, if not altogether astonished, by the tone and language of the exchanges between the two camps backing the one man over the other; Kalusha Bwalya or Andrew Kamanga.

It’s almost impossible to find middle ground in the great controversy, and harder still to digest that this whole ‘war of words’ is over a football seat; in fact, over simply the right to contest the seat at the July elections of Africa’s football ruling body where neither man is guaranteed the outcome they seek.

A little like two gentlemen inelegantly tilting at each other over the right to fill out the last lottery ticket at a street both.

Whichever way this bit of riveting bit of theatre plays out– it must be decided one way or the other – there will be no winner.

Sadly, this is not something that gets resolved by one of them deciding to ‘man up’ and courteously, or even grudgingly, deferring to the other. If it were that simple the curtains would have come down weeks ago on this increasingly uncomfortable sketch.

The truth is there is simply too much at stake for both egos involved. Kalusha goes about it as though he were out to reclaim a stolen birthright.

Among those who idolize him, he is the Great One, the one who won us the Africa Cup and he alone, among all Zambians, has the exclusive, insured right to seat at the high table at CAF and FIFA.

Among others, this sense of entitlement is decidedly off-putting and smacks of selfishness.

But it may be argued this is just the flip-side of his get-up-and-go personality make-up, his goal-getting spirit.

It’s what drives him, what made him such a great player; his inability to give up when chasing lost football causes (how many last-minute goals?), the silent and sometimes not-so-silent disdain for hyped-up opposition or any sort of odds stacked against him.

“Ba Zaire nabesa? Naba professional babo? Iyoo, twalabamona. Twalabamona….Ni 90 minutes fye…twalabomona.”

Would he find it within his inner self to let it go? The thing to remember is that Kalusha and Kamanga, once great friends, are not two people who particularly like each other these days, however much either man might pretend otherwise in public, and there is little point to be served by raking over the history between them.

Suffice to remind ourselves that until a few weeks ago, the last time the pair was mentioned so often in the same sentence was over the small matter of FAZ elections that ended with Kamanga turfing Kalusha out of the president’s office in Football House three years ago, deciding a bitterly-fought campaign by just a few votes.

There were some gritted pleasantries directed at each other in the aftermath of the election, forced on by tradition, but the pretense failed to mask the animus between the two camps.

That ill-feeling has been lingering ever since. These last two weeks, it began to sizzle as the supporters of the two men furiously worked up the flames.

Amid the continuing back and forth, was a comical irony to the saga last week when Kalusha showed up at a meeting called by the minister of sports to help resolve the impasse.

Cast your mind back to the day when no less than then president of the country, Rupiah Banda, called a similar meeting to try to bring the two men together during another tryst between them and Kalusha walked out at the sight of Kamanga.

The next thing we knew, even before the sun had set that same day, FIFA was threatening Zambia with expulsion for the egregious offence of government interference in the affairs of one of its affiliates.

So we already know what Kalusha would do were the shoe on the other foot: At the very first syllable of any suggestion to meet the minister, he would have dialled the CAF, FIFA, the International Criminal Court, the

International Convention on Trade in Endangered Species, the Global Anti-Whaling Association, Greenpeace and pretty much anyone with a voice loud enough to shout down GRZ.

His supporters would have left the Internet creaking under the weight of lengthy screeds infused with industrial language directed at the man who has the gall to challenge the Great One. We’ve been here before.

But here he was, in government representative Mawere’s office praying the man would intervene rather than interfere to help untangle this little knot and clear the way to another chance to defend his CAF seat.

But even here, in the presence of astute, polite company, he could barely contain his strength of feeling over the matter, for we have since learned that, at Kamanga’s suggestion that the way to CAF for both of them might involve a stop-over at the FAZ Integrity desk, Kalusha is said to have exploded with an expletive related to the intestinal contents of a buffalo-like, domesticated male animal that are sometimes used as fertiliser.

The peace-making meeting ended with the two men exiting the minister’s office via separate doors.

Could Kamanga have done things differently? There is a feeling that he has his priorities a little bit upside down; that given Zambia’s back-to-back failures to make the Africa Cup finals under his watch, he should be concentrating his energies on setting his stall in order.

His decision to file his nomination without first having consulted a fellow national who currently holds the seat has also been seen as sneaky and ill-intentioned.

As does the condition that the two of them appear before the Integrity committee, knowing full well that the smudge of a FIFA ban is still fresh on his rival’s record.

To Kalusha’s supporters, Kamanga has merely seized the chance to do in a pesky rival who many suspect might still be plotting a come-back at next year’s elections.

Kamanga dismisses the suggestion, insisting that if integrity tests are now part of the vetting system at FIFA, there can be nothing untoward about charity beginning at home.

How is this conundrum resolved? One man could simply stand down for the other, but it isn’t an easy decision for either man, for the simple reason that given the animosity between the two camps, there is neither heroism nor chivalry in deferring to the enemy.

If Kamanga steps aside, he will not be applauded by the Kalusha camp for being considerate. The Great One will have triumphed over the great pretender.

If Kalusha stands down, apart from the hurrays rising from Kamanga’s sympathisers, what else is left for him to do? Football, as he likes to say, is his life.

To quote former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger dismissing Manchester United arch-rival Alex Ferguson’s first suggestion that he might retired from the game; “So what will he do for the rest of his life, take the wife shopping every day?”

This one is going to take a little more than left-footed wizardry or accounting genius. Does anyone know where Solomon’s grave is located?

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