The 2017 U20 generation of Zambia was touted to be the golden generation of Zambian football after the country had gone into a lull in international football since their triumph in 2012 under coach Herve Renard.
That generation was led by Christopher Katongo alongside his brother Felix Katongo and star man, Rainford Kalaba. After this generation the former champions struggled to make an impact at international tournaments, but the re-emergence of the new generation of ‘Chipolopolo’ stars has given the much-needed hope for the future.
FARPost zooms into 5 stars from this generation doing good things in Europe.
ENOCK ‘COMPUTER’ MWEPU
The midfield pivot has grown from strength to strength since guiding Zambia’s U20 to their 2017 U20 AFCON triumph. Mwepu is currently the midfield anchor of Austrian champions Red Bull Salzburg who have won the Bundesliga title 9 times in the past 12 seasons. Mwepu harnessed his skills at NAPSA Stars and Kafue Celtic before moving to Austrian lower tier side FC Liefering who took him on loan from Celtic.
Red Bull Salzburg bought him from Kafue Celtic before loaning him back to Liefering where he adapted well clocking over 30 appearances in all competitions in his first season and the midfielder later returned to Salzburg in 2017. Since making his senior debut three years ago, the 22-year-old has established himself as one of the key players in the team leading their midfield in the league and continental competitions. He has made a total of 87 appearances for the Austrian club scoring 7 goals in all competitions.
Daka is referred to as the twin of Enock Mwepu with the two Zambian youngsters having gone through the same system for the past 6 years since their days at Kafue Celtic who groomed them and gave them their first opportunity to go abroad to join Liefering in Austria. Daka has established himself as one of the key figures in Zambian football since bursting onto the scene with the U20 squad in 2017. The 22-year-old has featured in 59 league games for Red Bull Salzburg and scored a staggering 33 goals, putting him on the list of the world’s most wanted strikers.
Salzburg have decided against letting Daka leave this season after clubs like Liverpool, Manchester United, Marseille and Lille were all gunning for his signature for the 2020/21 season.
Born in the city of Chipata in 1997, the KV Oostende winger has risen to prominence over the past three years. He started his career at Nchanga Rangers and local giants Zanaco before Russian outfit Spartak Moscow signed him in 2017 after his exploits with the Zambian U20 team at the U20 World Cup in South Korea. Sakala left Spartak Moscow in search of regular first team football and joined Belgian Pro League side KV Oostende at the start of the 2018/19 season and he has scored 11 league goals in the two seasons he has spent with the Belgian side. The 2020/21 season is promising to be the 23-year-old’s best season having already scored 4 goals and assisted a further strike in 10 league games.
Famously known as the ‘midfield general’, Banda is the creative spark of this Zambian generation of footballers and his sweet left foot makes him stand-out amongst his peers. Born in Chililabombwe 23 years ago, Banda started his journey at Nchanga Stars before moving abroad to join Portuguese side Esmoriz in 2016. The central midfielder played a crucial role in the 2017 U20 squad which attracted interest from clubs across Europe, with KV Oostende winning the race and signed him in 2017. In an exclusive interview with this publication the midfielder admitted that his time at Oostende was not pleasant as he was going through a lot of challenges on and off the field. The playmaker made 26 league appearances for the Belgian Pro League side before moving to Swedish giants Djurgarden IF where he plays for the first team.
A product of Mpande Academy, Chilufya has gone from being an unknown boy from Kasama to being a well established winger for Swedish giants Djurgarden IF. Chilufya scored 5 goals for the Zambian U20 national team and guided them to their success in the continental tournament and their great run in the FIFA World Cup.
The 21-year-old joined Djurgarden in 2017 and has made over 40 appearances in all competitions scoring 5 goals and assisting a further 7. In the 2020 season he has played 13 games and scored 2 goals while assisting a further three strikes. From his peers the attacker is one of those who are yet to establish themselves in the senior national team. He has made just one senior team appearance for Chipolopolo.
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By Prince Sobayeni