Zambia coach Charles Bwale is focusing on one of the key aspects of any junior tournament – making sure that only players of the correct age are present.
Bwale says Zambia have been meticulous in their preparation for the 2018 MOPANI Copper Mines COSAFA Under-20 Championships, including checking the ages of all of their players.
Zambia fell foul of age-cheating at the 2016 COSAFA Under-17 Championships and Bwale wants to make sure there is no repeat.
“Before we include anyone to the squad we need to verify the age of the player,” the coach told reporters. “I will not be the kind of coach who will entertain age cheating. We looked at Nebert [Musamba] and verified the age and I think he must, maybe, be playing for the senior national team, in that category.”
Many of the players for Zambia at the tournament, which will be staged in Kitwe from December 2-14, come from the Under-17 set-up, but surprisingly lost out in the first round on home soil 12 months ago.
Bwale says it will be a different case this time round as they are a year older and wiser.
“If you look at the team that we featured last time in Kitwe [in 2017], most of them were just Under-17 that we had to upgrade. We have played a number of games including the qualifiers and most of them are out of that shell.
“Looking at the performance we displayed last year, this time around it will be a different team and we will see a lot of improvement because most of the players are still there,” Bwale said.
“If I look at them, they are talented players and when it comes jelling, they have no problems because they are skillful and their mental strength is superb. They are good players.”
The coach also confirmed that two of his players are still writing exams, whileLameck Banda should return after his trials in Europe.
“We called 30 players into camp and only 27 have reported so far,” he said “We have two players that are writing Grade 12, Muma Mumba and Kingsley Akuya.
“We also have [Francisco] Mwepu who is attending trials in Austria, and Lameck Banda. We hope before we start the tournament Lameck will be in but Mwepu is ruled out.”
Eleven-time winners Zambia have been drawn in Group A along with Central African guest nation DR Congo, Malawi and Mozambique.
Only the top team in each pool advance to the semi-finals, along with the best-placed runner-up.