JOHANNESBURG – Zambian national team captain Kennedy Mweene believes it takes togetherness within the team to win the Africa Cup of Nations.
In the 28th edition of the coveted continental showpiece, then-captain Chris Katongo and his compatriots dominated the African safari following a dramatic penalty shoot-out win against Ivory Coast.
That was the first African title for Chipolopolo as they mastered their trade by coming together as a team. Then the majority of the players were plying their trade in the elite league of the South African Premiership, but their continental aspirations brought them together as team.
Katongo was on the books of Jomo Cosmos, Mweene donned the No 1 jersey for Free State Stars, while Isaac Chansa would go on to inspire Orlando Pirates to the Premiership title.
“You can have players but you don’t have a team,” Mweene stated. “You can have the best players in the world but if they are not working together, forget it, you are not going to win anything. I think it’s about the togetherness in the camp and all of us had to put our egos aside.”
The ongoing biennial showpiece in Egypt has had its highs and lows. Hosts Egypt were eliminated from the tournament by an inconsistent Bafana Bafana side in the Last 16. However, Bafana crashed out of the tournament following a 2-1 loss to Nigeria in the quarter-finals.
You see, the Super Eagles got it right by blending youth with the experienced. Rewind back to 2012, the Zambians used a similar approach in their team. Mweene, Chansa and Kotongo were at the peak of their careers, while Nathan Sinkala and Emmanuel Emayuka were making their breakthrough. But that development appears to have gone in vain as they failed to qualify for the last two editions of Afcon.
“If things are not right, it’s good not to embarrass yourselves at the Nations Cup. You’d rather not qualify,” Mweene said. “We didn’t qualify for a purpose, although we wanted to qualify. But first, we need fix our house because it’s not right at the moment.
“I think the changing of coaches also contributed to our failure,” the Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper said.@Mihalibaleka