IT is 26 years since Zimbabwe and Zambia last met in an AFCON qualifier. The two rivals have met 50 times in several competitions but have somehow found a way to avoid each other when it comes to the AFCON and World Cup matches.
Zimbabwe and Zambia have only been paired twice in AFCON qualifiers — for the 1982 finals in Libya and the 1994 edition in Tunisia.
The teams are yet to meet in World Cup matches. But, this year, fate ruled otherwise. They will now renew the rivalry which began with the inaugural Independence Cup at Rufaro in 1980.
They have also played each other in the CECAFA Cup, CHAN, COSAFA and a host of other international friendlies.
Botswana are also in the same group.
But it is the Battle of the Zambezi which has ignited interest.
Zambia hold the bragging rights after winning 19 of the 50 matches played between the two nations.
Zimbabwe have won 10 times and they drew 21.
“It’s always tricky playing Zambia because their style of play is more like ours,” said Agent “Ajira” Sawu, the former Dream Team star.
He featured in the last AFCON qualifier between the two nations back in 1993.
“So, it’s up to the boys to up their game on the day. The nation should also rally behind the boys in these two assignments.
“From long back, we have not had easy games against Zambia and I am sure they also haven’t found it any easier against us.
“It’s more like a derby, every time it’s about demonstrating to each other who is stronger between the two. The better team of the day is more likely to win. Like, I said, our football is just the same, we are only separated by the borders.”
Sawu still remembers the heartbreak when former Zambian skipper Kalusha Bwalya denied the Warriors their maiden ticket to the AFCON tournament. “The feeling was something else. The reason we compete in these qualifiers is because we want to go and play at the big stage,’’ said Sawu.
“Everyone wants that but when it doesn’t happen, you get sad, angry and disappointed. That’s what happened.’’
The Warriors are expected to begin camp next Monday with hopes high that their foreign-based players — Macauley Bonne, Jordan Zemura, Adam Chicksen and Cliff Moyo — would have received their passports.
“It’s a positive thing that our boys are doing quite well at their teams. It is my hope and prayer that they all will be able to take the same attitude and commitment to the national team when they come down here.
“Remember, there is a lot at stake. We need the AFCON,” said Sawu.
Zambia, just like Zimbabwe, are still under the tutelage of a caretaker coach Aggrey Chiyangi, who has named a 21-member squad for the back-to-back qualifiers against Algeria and Zimbabwe.
Chiyangi has recalled the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations winning duo of Nathan Sinkala and Stophila Sunzu who are on the books of TP Mazembe and FC Metz respectively.
Goalkeeper: Sebastian Mwange (Green Eagles), Mwenya Chibwe (Polokwane City-RSA), Toaster Nsabata (Zanaco)
Defenders: Lawrence Chungu (Zanaco), Stophila Sunzu (FC Metz), Clement Mwape (Zesco United), Tandi Mwape, Kabaso Chongo (both TP Mazembe), Isaac Shamujompa (Buildcon)
Midfielders: Rally Bwalya (Power Dynamos), Nathan Sinkala (TP Mazembe), Kelvin Kampamba (Nkana), Salulani Phiri ([Polokwane City), Donashano Malama (Black Leopards), Augustine Mulenga (Orlando Pirates-RSA), Clatous Chama (Simba Sports-Tanzania), Bruce Musakanya (Red Arrows)
Strikers: Evans Kangwa (Arsenal Tula-Russia), Mwape Musonda (Black Leopards-RSA), Lazarous Kambole (Kaizer Chiefs-RSA), Justin Shonga (Orlando Pirates-RSA):