- Zambia coach Beston Chambeshi looks ahead to U-20 World Cup quarter-final
- Reflects on his own last-eight game from 1988 Olympics in Korea Republic
- African champions to face Italy in Suwon
While Zambia currently navigates parts unknown through the waters of the FIFA U-20 World Cup, preparing for their first ever quarter-final at this level, there is at least one among their ranks who finds the environment more than a little familiar. Fortunately for the Young Chipolopolo, it is the man steering the ship.
Almost 30 years ago, coach Beston Chambeshi was gearing up for a last-eight clash of his own as Zambia fought at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Football Tournament. Now back again in the Korea Republic he admits has “changed a lot”, he still has fond memories of his first trip east.
“It was marvellous. Playing teams like Germany, who had great players like [Jurgen] Klinsmann, as well as facing the likes of Iraq and Italy,” he recalled in conversation with FIFA.com. “It wasn’t easy but, at that time, we had a strong team. We played as a united group, just as the boys are doing now.”
With the likes of national icons Kalusha Bwalya and Charles Musonda joining him – as well as six players who tragically lost their lives in the 1993 air crash in Gabon – the Copper Bullets blitzed through their group before being sent home by a Klinsmann-inspired Germany.
Top scorer in Zambia that year and national champions with Nkana FC, Chambeshi was given the nickname ‘Quicksilver’ by legendary Zambian commentator Dennis Liwewe. “I wasn’t all that fast, but I was a talented player,” the smiling Chambeshi said. “That name always pushed me to play good soccer.”
And another famous quote from Liwewe, who was the voice of Zambian football for more than 40 years, describing their triumphant CAF Africa Cup of Nations side of 2012 fits neatly with this latest incarnation. “We showed the spirit of attack, attack, attack,” he told the BBC following that victory. “We shall never surrender.”
Epic fightbacks against Iran and Germany, both rollercoaster games, reflected just that as they booked their quarter-final with Italy in Suwon. “It’s a Zambian news story to see a team get this far,” Chambeshi said. “Football is about making history, it is about leaving your name. [But] there is no pressure now, they’re just enjoying their game.
“In football, it’s only once in a while when you find yourself at this stage. They’re young boys, so to have a ‘father’ like me telling them the truth about soccer, how to enjoy soccer and that things are in their own hands [helps].”
Italy and beyond
Faced with an organised Azzurrini, fresh from eliminating France, Chambeshi knows goals cannot be conceded cheaply, but early resilience against Germany – albeit not lasting the full 90 minutes – has buoyed him.
And, ultimately, he feels this record-breaking run is nothing compared to what the future can bring should they present a pathway for this side to step into the shoes of the senior Chipolopolo. “This is football. Records are made and records are broken. This is just a stepping stone and in a few years we can do even better for Zambia and Africa – [the players] have that zeal.”