Big Grin, Emotional Win- So What’s Next, Zambia?
6/11/2012 8:33:27 PM -
Over the weekend, Zambia's Chipolopolo again beat the Ghana Back Sars in the group stages of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. Of course this is another confident addition to their premier glory as African Champions since February. It all seems to be working for the country, who until now, seemed to be only a footnote in continental football.
Forget the two occasions the team had previously- and unsuccessfully- edged closer to achieving a similar feat, and disregard how bookmakers wrote them off comparatively to other powerful contestants before the continental showdown. There couldn't have been a better setting and timing to honour the 1993 Zambian team (lauded as the best Zambian football generation ever) who lost their lives in a plane crash. It's all like a twisted movie where a young chap who is extremely footnoted in life overcomes abysmal odds to achieve high social status. Every viewer can feel affectionate, emotional and connected to his heroic feats.
No doubts, Zambia has won our hearts, the whole world. But for how long can you sustain a country of 13.2 million people on emotions?
Truth be told, now is the time for Zambia to weave its identity within the international community, one that aptly draws inspiration from its recently earned reputation as a determined, hardworking and successful country- and also one that can engender a positive economic upheaval. The African Cup of Nations trophy must not be the end of the country's story to the world, but rather the beginning. Of course the country's extant goodwill of peace and political stability have been instrumental. That's good. However, stability is not a competitive differentiator for a national brand; it's actually just a basic component of any country's identity!
In any case, this stability has not redeemed Zambians from the teeming social and economic woes: poverty is still widespread, life expectancy is among the lowest in the world, and the death rate is one of the highest - largely due to the prevalence of HIV/Aids. Plus, the country's micro-tourism industry has struggled to assert itself globally. The missing piece is that socially iconic variable which can attract, create and sustain economic value for the country. This is where the country's continental football victory becomes critical, and because football is arguably the most popular world sport, it bestows tremendous social opportunities.
By capitalizing on the strengths and successes derived from their emotionally inspired football campaign, not only can Zambia initiate economic renaissance (as a preferred southern African investment destination), but also it can carve a formidable image whose benefits would be limitless.
It may not necessarily be an absolute football image (like Brazil, Spain or even Ghana), but a derived one from the game. It could be the spirit of the game: fortitude, resilience and achievement. That way, Zambia's brand can go just beyond its name, and assume an attractive bundle of images, meanings, associations and experiences in the mind of the world.
Already, the country has shot up 28 places to a remarkable 43rd spot in the Fifa world rankings after winning the Africa Cup of Nations- the first of its kind in 11 years.
Now things are adding up. Things are making sense. Everybody seems to like you.
So why don't you make your next move, Zambia?