Zesco United begin their 2008 local campaign on Saturday when they face Kabwe Warriors with the defence of the season-opening Samuel “Zoom” Ndhlovu Charity Shield semifinals at Nchanga Stadium in Chingola.
The second semifinal on the same date at Nkoloma Stadium in Lusaka will see 2007 top-flight runners-up Green Buffaloes take on last years Mosi Cup champions Red Arrows.
Zesco’s clash against 2007 BP Top 8 champions Warriors is a repeat of last years Charity Shield final played at Woodlands Stadium in Lusaka that the former won the match 5-3 on post-match penalties after a 1-1 draw.
The champions welcome the news that influential midfielder Rainford Kalaba is fit after recovering from an injury.
Kalaba sustained the injury last weekend in Zesco’s 2-0 win in a CAF Africa Champions League preliminary round first leg match against Uganda Revenue Authority in Kampala.
Last years joint top scorer with Kalaba, Enoch Sakala, is available too and should start in attack together with Nicholas Zulu while new boy Elson Mkandawire will miss the game due to injury.
Warriors on the other hand face Zesco without striker Emmanuel Mayuka who has just completed a loan move to Buffaloes in a match that will mark Egyptian born-trainer Mohamed Fathy competitive debut with the Kabwe team since his appointment in January.
Fathy inherits a team depleted of influential young talent of not only Mayuka but two other Zambia Under-20 starlets in midfielder Henry Banda and goalkeeper Kelvin Musonda.
Banda and Musonda recently joined Zanaco in the off-season
And in the other semifinal, Buffaloes will be aiming to qualify for the Charity Shield final this time around after losing 2-1 to Zesco in last years semifinal.
Coach George Lwandamina said he is looking forward to a good game against Arrows ahead of next Saturday CAF Confederations Cup return leg match against Chipukizi of Zanzibar in Lusaka.
Mayuka, Reuben Tembo and Morgan Hanjeema are all available for the match against Arrows.
Winners from the two semifinals will meet in the final tentatively set for Nkoloma on March 9.