Zambia and Under-23 defender Hichani Himoonde said he is not taking his two starts at the Africa Cup for granted and working towards the 2010 qualifiers.
“I was shocked when Coach Patrick Phiri told me to warm-up in the match against Cameroon,” Hichani said reflecting on that forgettable 5-1 defeat to Cameroon that he didn’t want to remember so soon after with memories still fresh in the nation’s minds.
The Dynamos defender replaced stuttering Kennedy Nkethani midway through the first half of what was turning out to be a torrid evening against Cameroon for the Zanaco defender who’s place Himoonde made his own thereafter.
“I thought I was going to be part of the “B” or “C” team at the Africa Cup and wasn’t expecting to play any matches,” Himoonde said.
The Lusaka Dynamos defender, who was handed his first three caps by Phiri at the 2006 Cecafa Cup in Ethiopia, said the level of play at the Africa Cup was a quantum leap from what he had previously experienced.
“The Africa Cup is a deferent level of football altogether where you have to think very fast or you are finished,” Hichani said.
He said it was different from spontaneous, physical and cavalier football at Under-23 and Under-20 added that he but got into the groove of things by the game three in Zambia’s 1-1 draw with Egypt in their final Group C match.
“I can’t look back now, you know,” the Dynamos defender said looking very relaxed and happy to be back in Kabwata where he was born, raised and played his street football were the famous Breakpoint Bar now stands when it was previously a public park.
It was quite an experience for the Dynamos players to be part of the grueling three-week pre-Africa Cup tour of Europe and North Africa with the national team.
“It was constant travel and we were almost living on aeroplanes and buses traveling from game to game and training and from one country to another on our way to Ghana,” the 21-year-old giant defender said.
“But I thank Coach Patrick Phiri for giving me an opportunity to play in the team.
“And when someone gives you a chance like that especially at the Africa Cup you take it with two hands.
“But that doesn’t mean you have to relax and am going to work very hard to keep my place in the team now for the 2010 qualifiers.”
Himoonde added that he had no problem with the criticism that he was too raw and inexperienced to have been thrust into the big lights of the Africa Cup.
“One has to leave with criticism and get the good from the bad and work very hard on your weakness because life is like that,” Himoonde said.
“I have been learning a lot since I started playing top-level with Dynamos in 2006 and when I went top Kaizer Chiefs last year for my first trials I also came away with something new,” he said.
Himoonde had an unsuccessful two-week trial spell at Chiefs but is optimistic another one would come soon-but with hard work.
However, he refuses to discuss his future at Dynamos and beyond at this time.