COSAFA side Zambia have been taking pointers from Spanish giants Barcelona ahead of the Africa Under-23 Cup of Nations in Senegal.
The country’s Under-23 assistant coach Tenant Chilumba was part of a four-day workshop run by Barca trainer Isaac Guerrero in Lusaka, who also led the west Africa-bound selection in a session this week.
Guerrero was impressed by what he saw and feels there is rich potential within the Zambian squad.
“They have a good opportunity to qualify to the Olympics,” Guerrero said. “I don’t know the level of other teams but Zambia has good quality players.”
Although the head coach of the Under-23 side is Fighton Simukonda, Zambia have further boosted their technical team by taking senior national coach George Lwandamina to the tournament as well.
Lwandamina recently masterminded Zambia’s path past Sudan in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and will add considerably to their technical expertise.
Simukonda is confident his side will get out of the pool stage, where they will face Owen da Gama’s South Africa, hosts Senegal and Tunisia.
“Chances of performing well are there. We are going there to pass the group stage,” he said.
The coach has been able to call up four overseas-based players for the tournament, and has also included eight players from the senior national team group that defeated Sudan.
Armenia-based midfielder Lubambo Musonda is joined by Obrey Chirwa from Zimbabwean side FC Platinum, as well as strikers Ronald Kampamba and Patrick Ngoma, who are both based in Egypt.
The eight senior national team players are goalkeeper Toaster Nsabata, defenders Benedict Chepeshi and Boyd Mkandawire, midfielders Jackson Chirwa, Paul Katema, Spencer Sautu and Musonda, and forward Conlyde Luchanga.
Zambia open their campaign against Tunisia on Saturday, before a crunch meeting with COSAFA rivals South Africa on December 1. They finish their pool against Senegal three days later.
Teams need to finish in the top three in the competition to book a place at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next August, with the four teams in Group B being Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria and Mali.
Zambia have not been to the Olympic Games since Seoul in 1988.