THE Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) has deferred the Chipolopolo training camping for the Rwanda 2016 African Nations Championship (CHAN) finals to December 27 with a strong warning to players against engaging themselves in ‘illegal’ Christmas tournaments.
FAZ spokesperson Nkweto Tembwe said yesterday that the technical bench reluctantly moved camping from yesterday to after Christmas to enable the players have enough rest, having endured a long season laced with several international commitments.
Tembwe said the Township Christmas and other off-season tournaments were popular among the players but also destructive ahead of the CHAN tournament set for January 16 to February 7.
“The season was long and tight. We had several national team games and then some players shuffled between different national teams. So the coaches thought the players needed a bit of rest before getting into the CHAN preparations,” he said.
Tembwe added that one of the reasons camping was initially set for December 14 was to stop players from harming themselves with exertion due to the township off-season tournaments they liked competing in.
He said the Christmas tournament meant that the players did not get the needed scientifically-proven rest and subsequently went back into the next season fatigued.
“These Township Christmas tournaments are scandalously popular with our players who go there and exert themselves a lot to prove to the rest how good they are, but this just harms them in the long run because they get no rest.
“So during this break, the players have until after Christmas and we expect them to reserve their energies for the national team so that when they report to camp, they will be fresh and able to deliver,” he said.
Tembwe insisted that there was nothing sinister about a team going into camp after Christmas, which will be two weeks before the CHAN tournament kicks off.
He said even the Chipolopolo ‘proper’ when going to the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) earlier this year started camp on December 26 and that the decision was ‘not from the blues’.
Tembwe said players would be expected to prioritise their rest so they get into the new season with energy, especially that the 2016 football season kicks off in February.
“This year was tight and then in 2016, we are going to have more teams in the top leagues, meaning more games.
“So this will call for an early start to the season and players better be aware of this and condition themselves rightly,” he said.
Zanaco has already warned its players not to get into any of the Christmas tournaments as this is harmful to the club’s aspirations heading into the CAF Confederations Cup.
Meanwhile, Zambia’s opponents at the CHAN, Zimbabwe, regrouped yesterday with coach Callisto Pasuwa recommending that the Warriors conduct fitness tests as he feared some players called up for the training squad could be hiding injuries.
The Herald Newspaper reports that players started trooping into camp on Sunday with most of the Harare-based players, led by CAPS United defender Hardlife Zvirekwi, being the early birds.
Pasuwa, however, suspected that some of his players were not being honest with their fitness levels.
His suspicions were heightened by revelations that versatile Hwange player Pritchard Mpelele was expected to go for an operation while a cloud also hang over big Harare City forward Francesco Zekumbawira’s availability.