Kalusha speaks on cancelled Chan match

HARARE - African football legend Kalusha Bwalya has questioned the game’s administration on the continent after the cancellation of the African Nations Championship (Chan) final qualifier between Zimbabwe and Zambia on Sunday.

The match pitting the Warriors and their southern African rivals Chipolopolo failed to take place at Rufaro Stadium after the Cameroon match officials appointed by the Confederation of Africa Football (Caf) were left stranded at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Kenya.

JKIA international arrivals terminal was gutted by fire last Wednesday and the Cameroonian match officials were stranded in transit in the Kenyan capital en route to Harare and could not make it in time for Sunday’s match.

The match has since been rescheduled for this Sunday at the same venue after Caf resisted moves by both the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) and their Zambian counterparts to bring in match officials from South Africa.

Bwalya, who is the president of the Football Association of Zambia (Faz), believes with better planning this debacle could have been avoided.

“I think we could obviously avoid it had we done our logistic planning earlier. It was made worse by getting officials from as far as West Africa and I think in the future assignments we could be able to get referees from our region,” Bwalya told the Daily News.

“Again we are not the people who make decisions and we can’t choose referees. We are playing in a competition and we have to stick to the rules of the game.

“We have to accept and regret especially for the boys who have trained hard for the match. It’s one of those things that happen in football and we have to bear it move on.

“We are going back to Zambia and come back on Friday.” 

Bwalya, who was voted the African Footballer of the Year back in 1988, bemoaned Caf’s decision to prevent the South African match officials from replacing their Cameroonian counterparts. 

“I think it’s a big inconvenience to everybody; the Zimbabwe and Zambia national teams together with the supporters locally and those who have travelled.

“The match was primed to have taken place today (Sunday) but unfortunately because of the referees’ non-appearance it was called off.

“We had a meeting with Zifa and the match commissioner to look at all the options and it was agreed that the match be postponed to next weekend. 

“It’s a very regrettable situation because Caf could not give us replacements to use and I think under those circumstances it was best to defer the match to next week.

“Logistically; accommodation, transport and everything it’s a lot but at the end of the day football has to be played.”

Close to 5 000 fans had paid to enter the stadium and were left disappointed after the cancellation of the match.

Zifa, however, made contingency plans to avail complementary tickets to those fans for this Sunday’s rescheduled match.

Zimbabwe and Zambia will be battling for a place at the third Chan tournament set to be hosted by South Africa early next year.

The tournament is reserved for only players plying their trade in their respective homelands with no foreign-based players allowed to take part.

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