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Africa closing the gap-Bwalya

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NAIROBI, Kenya, September 20- African nations are closing the gap with their European and South American counterparts in football.

That is the firm belief held by the most illustrious Number 11 in African football, retired Zambia captain and former Chipolopolo head coach, Kalusha Bwalya.

Speaking to Capital FM from Accra, Ghana, Bwalya said Ghana’s showing at last year’s World Cup in South Africa was the inspiration needed for African teams to ascend to the top of world football.

“We have to go and improve on that Ghana did in South Africa but the gap we have on them (Europeans and South Americans) is very close but let’s not forget they have an advantage over us.

“But we have seen countries in Asia such as South Korea and Japan step up in recent years and with the talent and potential we have here, we can make an impact at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil,” Bwalya, who is one of the African legends involved in the Guinness Football Challenge Season 2 TV show set to kick off on October 6, said.

Ghana joined Senegal (2002) and Cameroon (1990) as the only African countries to feature at the quarterfinal stage of the quadrennial Mundial and just like the latter pair, came within a whisker of making the semis.

Striker Asamoah Gyan missed a stoppage time penalty as the Black Stars crashed out to Uruguay on post-match penalties while Turkey eliminated Senegal via the discontinued golden goal rule in South Korea/Japan.

Cameroon, the first nation to make the last eight at the World Cup lost narrowly to England after shocking defending champions Argentina in their opener in Italia 90.

“I see a lot of passion in our clubs and this is a healthy situation for our football. Leagues in Zambia, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria and many more are developing and this is what will make the difference.

“We have had our top players featuring for European clubs and they do not have the same belief when they play for their country but with the improvements made on domestic football, the pride of playing for the shirt will return,” the former PSV Eindhoven midfield dynamo who netted 50 goals for his nation charged.

On the Chipolopolo, the team he led to the 1994 Nations Cup finals after they lost their entire team to a plane clash a year earlier, Bwalya assured they were on the path of returning to the cream of the continental game.

“Zambians are very happy about their team but most importantly, we have found the right balance between youth and experience. With players such as Katongo brothers (Chris and Felix), Mulenga (Nyambe) and Kampamba (Chintu) the future looks promising.”

He added: “We cannot say for now whether they will be in the frame to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. We have to see how they perform at the Equatorial Guinea and Gabon Africa Nations Cup to see where they stand.”

On the forthcoming football show, Bwalya noted the enlistment of legends that also include Nigeria’s Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha, Marcel Dessaily (France) and Rigobert Song (Cameroon) would give the competition an exciting edge.

“The highest scorers in the competition will take on physical challenges and tough competition against the legends in the final. All participants should look forward to this and everyone should put their football boots on,” he expressed.

The competition format will see six teams go head to head in a thrilling competition of football skills and brain busting knowledge for the chance to win cash prizes.

Winning the Eredivisie title in Netherlands twice in a row (1990/91, 1991/92) in a PSV team coached by the late Bobby Robson and containing among others, Brazilian legend Romario is one of the many highlights of Bwalya’s chequered career.

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