MULWANDA LUPIYA Luanda
ANDREW Sardanis tells of a story when he visited Angola in 1976 on a business trip and found hotel staff who addressed him as comrade. At first, when the receptionist at Hotel Tropico in Luanda greeted him with ‘Bon dias, Comarada’, he found it unnerving. At that time, Angola was at war with various factions of UNITA [National Union for the Total Independence of Angola], MPLA [Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola] and FNLA [National Front for the Liberation of Angola] fighting for control of the country. The war had affected general services in the country including at Hotel Tropico, where he found electric bulbs few and far between in the corridors. But despite the hotel staff addressing him as ‘comrade’, they were not inclined to help him out when he needed to find his way up to the restaurant from his room.
Zesco United, who arrived here on Wednesday night ahead of today’s CAF Champions League encounter against Premiero Agosto, have been based at Lukweku Hotel, just adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean. The reception has generally been good and Zesco will have few complaints. But when they turn up at November 11 Stadium for their Group A opening match, like Sardanis, they will discover that although the reception has been good, the Angolans will not be inclined to help them on the pitch.Zesco have been here before, and are familiar with Agosto.
On their last visit here, they conceded a late goal to lose 2-1 and ended up being eliminated from the continental competition. In Group A, they are grouped with African giants Zamalek of Egypt and TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). But even with that, they know that having flattered to deceive on several occasions in CAF competitions, failure to make it out of the group will be considered as a total disaster. It is perhaps the reason they are counting on a good start. “The first games are always important and every team would want to collect points and we are not an exception. Because first games give you direction, so we are going to fight,” Zesco United coach George Lwandamina said. He has not forgotten about his last outing here, but Lwandamina is not reading too much into it. “Football sometimes you don’t ride on the past. I am sure we made mistakes in the game that we lost and memories are still fresh, we know where we went wrong and going into this one, I am sure it will be a very different ball game,” he said.
“The boys are looking forward to playing well and enjoying the game. ”Being unbeaten in their last 14 engagements both domestically and internationally, Lwandamina will hope that the scoreless draw recorded against Green Eagles in the Super Division match last weekend is nothing more than just that – a blip. Interestingly, the last time Agosto played a Zambian team, it was Eagles, who beat them 1-0 at home although it was not enough for the Choma-based side to progress having lost 2-1 in the first leg played in Lusaka.
Zambia’s ambassador to Angola Lawrence Chalungumana, who visited Zesco during training on Thursday and assured them of maximum support, urged them to emulate Eagles by beating the Angolans in their own backyard. Obviously, the players know that it is easier said than done. Last season in the same competition, Agosto held Zesco to a barren draw at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium but won the reverse fixture 2-1.