Zanaco were the biggest winners of the curtailed 2019/2020 season despite failing to finish in the top four of the FAZ Super Division.
For years, the FAZ Fair Play Award has enjoyed an unglamorous spot and was an item immediately filed away, forgotten forever, too shy to even be listed on the bragging honors of barroom football arguments.
But this season, Zanaco gave the award some true weight and worth.
Zanaco twice had the agonizing obligation of travelling to Ndola and play one match in a space of three weeks against Forest Rangers after their initial July 18 date was cancelled due to a reportedly 28 Covid-19 cases in the hosts’ camp.
Forest only informed Zanaco of their predicament just hours before kickoff that saw the visitors subsequently handed a walkover win.
Even though Forest won the appeal, Zanaco on August 9 still sent back to Ndola their strongest side for what was a dead-rubber for the seven-time league champions who were resigned to finishing seventh.
But it was a win-or-bust game for Forest who desperately needed the 3 points to lift their debut league title but Zanaco held them to a 0-0 draw that saw them settle for number two tied on 50 points with leaders Nkana but with an inferior goal difference.
However, that was not an isolated gesture of humility from Zanaco in 2020.
Just seven days earlier, Zanaco travelled to Mazabuka despite speculation that struggling Nakambala Leopards had forfeited the match on health grounds citing Covid-19.
Zanaco still took a Sunday morning drive from Lusaka to Mazabuka where they found themselves locked out of an empty stadium together with the match officials.
But one cannot forget January when Zanaco had to play five home fixtures, two of them continental games, in a space of eleven days winning all of them including a famous 3-0 victory over former league champions Zesco United.
Zanaco even managed to secure their first-ever CAF Confederation Cup quarterfinal qualification in that same grueling space of time.
Essentially, Zanaco showed there is still a football constituency out there where respectability and morality still survives in the beautiful game.
Above all, Zanaco set the standard by which teams will be measured for the FAZ Fair Play Award.