Chipolopolo are back in action this Thursday when they face Ethiopia away in a friendly match in Addis Ababa.
It has been over a week since Chipolopolo wrapped up its October FIFA International Match Window obligations in which they played Malawi winning 1-0 at home on October 7 , then lost 2-1 away to Kenya on October 9, before beating hosts South Africa by the same margin on October 11.
It was also coach Micho’s first get-together with his foreign players since his February appointment a month before international football went on an eight-month lockdown due to the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic.
But Micho is back on the road with his 23-member home-based team to face Ethiopia and South Sudan outside the FIFA window in two friendlies each from October 22-26 in Addis Ababa to prepare for the 2021 CHAN tournament coming up in January in Cameroon, but before that, 2021 AFCON qualifier doubleheader against Botswana this November.
“We have three phases for our preparations for our Botswana qualifiers in November. The first phase were the October dates when we had three friendly dates during the FIFA match window that we have played and finished successfully,” Micho said.
“In the second phase, in order to keep the momentum of our players, we have organized friendly matches in Ethiopia.
“We have assurances of games in Ethiopia but we are having problems with South Sudan who are having financial constraints.
“However, we believe the problems will be solved and the matches will be sorted.
“This second phase going to Ethiopia and playing at high altitude with less Oxygen is also good for the fitness aspect (since the Zambia league is still in pre-season) to see where we are at the present so that when we come back, we are at a high level.
“In the third phase, we are giving players back to their respective clubs to play round one, two and three for their local leagues.
“So, with that in mind, with FIFA days in October, and these out of FIFA friendly’s in Ethiopia, plus our local leagues starting, each of our players is supposed to have had 10-plus games in their legs meaning that we are in competitive mood, competitive form and competitive readiness for Botswana who are coming on November 12 and Gaborone away on November 16.”
Chipolopolo, meanwhile, will fly straight into the first match on Thursday after leaving Lusaka later on Wednesday afternoon.
It is a novel concept for Chipolopolo who have traditionally and rigidly stuck by a minimum two-day, pre-match acclimatization regime.
However, Micho has radically forced-fed the team with his hit-the-ground-running philosophy this month when Chipolopolo spent the 24 hour gaps transiting between the three friendly matches.
“It is a challenge to arrive this evening and to play tomorrow (Thursday) at 3PM our time but it is a test of character and measurement of values and I really expect that we really put a good account of ourselves so that we show where we are at present and we see what’s supposed to be corrected before facing Botswana,” Micho said.
Meanwhile, Zambia last date against Ethiopia was also with a CHAN team on August 5, 2017 that ended 0-0 at Woodlands Stadium under Wedson Nyirenda.
Prior to that, Zambia won another friendly 1-0 away in Addis Ababa on June 7, 2015 in what was Honour Janza’s final match in charge.