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Why Zambian stars have flopped in PSL in recent years

Pressure, lack of international experience weighing on players: Chansa

Sihle Ndebele Journalist
Lazarous Kambole has left Kaizer Chiefs.
Lazarous Kambole has left Kaizer Chiefs.
Image: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Zambian talents have found the going difficult in the Premier Soccer League of late, failing to preserve the legacy left by countrymen like the late Denis Lota, Collins Mbesuma, James Chamanga, Christopher Katongo and Isaac Chansa.

Lazarous Kambole and Austin Muwowo are the prime examples of Zambian players who have recently struggled in the PSL. The duo arrived in the country carrying a ton of expectations with them when they joined the Soweto heavyweights Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, having excelled at Zambian clubs Zesco United and Nkana. 

Kambole, who saw out his three-year contract at Chiefs after arriving in 2019, was a total flop as he only netted twice in 46 games. The 28-year-old striker has  joined Tanzanian champions Young Africans.

Muwowo also linked up with Pirates in 2019, playing just nine times without finding the back of the net until he was shipped out on loan to Swallows in June last year. At Swallows, the highly rated 25-year-old right-winger managed just six appearances and never scored. His Pirates deal expires on Thursday and Pirates are unlikely to renew it.

Despite showing great promise in his early years in Mzansi, Justin Shonga is another Zambian who hasn't really fulfilled his potential in the PSL. The 25-year-old joined Pirates from Nkwazi in 2017, going on to score 16 times for Pirates until they let him go three years later.

Since leaving Pirates in 2020, Shonga has played for Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila, Cape Town City and Sekhukhune. He has scored a measly three PSL goals since leaving Pirates.

Shot-stopper Cyril Chibwe, 29, is another Zambian player to struggle in the PSL.

Chibwe had a promising career until Polokwane City were relegated in the 2019/20 season. He joined Baroka last year but couldn't dislodge Elvis Chipezeze and Oscarine Masuluke. Chibwe has now joined Zambian side Zesco.

Chansa, who attained legendary status at Pirates by winning two league titles among other trophies, strongly believes his countrymen's PSL shortcomings in recent seasons originate from their lack of international experience and an inability to cope with the pressure of expectations, among other factors.

“There a lot of factors but coming with high expectations seems to be the biggest problem. Kambole did well here in Zambia and the expectations were high for him in SA, putting him under pressure. Some of us came to SA when we were already playing regularly for the national team... that experience played a huge role [in their success in the PSL],” Chansa told Sowetan from Zambia.

“Muwowo came to SA after playing one or two games for Zambia. He wasn't exposed to a certain level because the PSL is more competitive than the Zambian league.”

Even so, all is not lost for the Zambians, as players like Toaster Nsabata of Sekhukhune and Ghampani Lungu of SuperSport United are flying the country's flag high in the PSL.

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