Inclusion of Calabar, Akumu in Stars squad hampers Zesco’s title hopes in Zambia

Zambian heavyweights Zesco United have been forced to write to the country’s football governing body (FAZ) requesting that the team’s upcoming title playoff decider against Green Eagles be postponed as the team is nowhere close to full strength with six of its first team players currently away on international duty.

Zesco are scheduled to play against Green Eagles for the ZSL title on June 8 and will be without six players by the time the game rolls in.

AFCON preps

Three of the six are currently with their respective nations preparing for this year’s AFCON championships while the other three are already representing Zambia at the COSAFA regional tournament currently ongoing in South Africa.

Those in AFCON duty are Kenyan duo of Anthony Akumu and David Calabar Owino and Burundi midfielder Enock Sabumukama.

Akumu and Owino are with the Harambee Stars team that departed Nairobi for Paris France on Friday morning where they will set-up camp for three weeks in preps for the Nations Cup set to begin on June 21 while in the Zambian contingent at the COSAFA is striker Lazarus Kambole and defenders Clement Mwape and Mwila Phiri.

“We have spoken to them (FAZ) and we are now writing to them,” Zesco CEO Richard Mulenga told LT Sports.

Dependable players

“It is not making any sense that we play on June 8 when we have over six of our players away in international duty.

“And what do the rules say when you have over five players away on international duty?

“And these are not just players who sit on our bench but are our dependable players in the starting XI.

“In the spirit of fairness, and in order to fairly decide who should be champions, I think we all have an obligation to field our best players.”

It is more likely that Zesco will be without the three players set to take part in the AFCON  as the tournament is set to begin a week after the scheduled playoff date. But they could be boosted with the return of the Zambian trio with the COSAFA set to conclude on June 8.

This season’s Zambian league campaign saw a change in strategy as the 20 topflight teams were divided into two zones of 10 teams each, so as to speed up the campaign with the limited time available and conform with CAF’s requirements to have the domestic campaigns of its member associations run concurrently with the European calendar from next season.

Zesco claimed Zone A with Eagles doing the same in Zone B and will now face off to determine who will be crowned the 2019 champions.

Jesse Were

The top two teams in each Zone also secured their place at next season’s continental campaign.

Zesco is also home to Kenyan international Jesse Were who was dropped from coach Sebastien Migne’s provisional AFCON squad to the uproar of many in Kenya and Zambia.