UNDER-23 national soccer team central defence pillar, Given Mpundu, has been struck down with malaria making uncertain his chances of playing in Sunday's decisive Olympics qualifier against Ghana.
Mpundu, who has not trained with the team in the last two training sessions, was by yesterday still down and did not move out of his hotel room and is currently on medication.
Team delegation leader, George Kasengele, said if the player's condition does not improve in time for today's departure for Kumasi, Mpundu would be flown back home.
"Given is down with malaria, we only discovered that while we were already here. He is in his room right now and I think we may have to fly him back home if the condition does not improve. He is on medication though," Kasengele said.
He also said that thecoaching staff has intensified its training programme and was optimistic of a good game in Ghana.
He said the team would not have a training session when they arrive in Ghana tomorrow (today) but will train on Saturday morning to let them have time to unwind after the six-hour long flight from Johannesburg.
On playing Wits University and not Orlando Pirates or Kaizer Chiefs as earlier planned, Kasengele said the students side is located nearer to where the team is camped at Mill Park Holiday Inn Hotel.
"We expect a good game against Wits University this afternoon and thereafter the players will have an early training session before we leave for Ghana.
We don't expect themto train when we arrive in Ghana until Saturday morning," he said.
Kasengele said that they had not experienced any problems in South Africa while the team is injury free. Latest inclusions, South Africa-based Francis Kombe and Edwin Phiri who campaigns in Sweden, have adjusted to the programme.
OnCollins Mbesuma who visited the team on Wednesday evening, Kasengele dismissed the player's claim that he would travel to Ghana for the game.
Kasengele said Mbesuma would have to wait for his ankle to fully recover before being drafted into the team that needed to beat or draw against Ghana to qualify for the Olympic Games.
"Mbesuma was ruled out before weeven left Lusaka, but he just paid a courtesy call on his friends after being with them during the qualifiers.
Kalusha Bwalya thoughthe should see his friends in camp here. "We can only hope he will play should we qualify for Athens," Kasengele said.
He also said that the team was confident and aiming for an outright victory and not a draw after all the preparations.
Kasengele also said that the issue of the differences in weather patterns should be brushed aside and that it was not the first time they would be playing under such conditions.
"We don't want totalk about a draw because that means bringing in a defeatist attitude, we only want a win and that is what we are going out there for.
"Players mustcondition themselves to any kind of weather, this is not something to worry about, there is nothing unusual about it," said Kasengele, a FAZ committee member.
He alsohailed the strike partnership of Clifford Mulenga, Songwe Chalwe and Kombe saying the trio had been impressive so far during their training programmes and that there was enough backup forMpundu.
The team will later in the afternoon play Witswho are placed fifth on the Premier Soccer League (PSL) standings at the university grounds.
Kasengele also announced that technical director, Kalusha, who is also FAZ vice-presidentwould head the Under-23 coaching staff until after the Athens Olympics should the teammake it to the tournament.
Zambia is tied with Ghana on 10 points at the top of Group D but has a better goal difference and a draw will suffice to make it to the Olympics.