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AFCON 2023: Frankie Musonda is Zambia’s former Luton participant now with Ayr United and dreaming of glory | Soccer Information

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Frankie Musonda signed off with Ayr United by scoring the equaliser of their 2-2 draw with Dunfermline at Somerset Park. A big purpose for the two,022 supporters in attendance. However it’s the calls for of 20 million Zambians in his ideas now.

Musonda, the 26-year-old boy from Bedford, son of an English mom and Zambian father, has been named in Avram Grant’s Zambia squad for the Africa Cup of Nations. His comparatively quiet life in Scotland’s Championship is remodeled as soon as in nationwide colors.

“It’s actually unusual coming from enjoying in Scotland and going over there, simply how many individuals appear to recognise me,” Musonda tells Sky Sports activities. “It feels a bit overwhelming at occasions. I can not describe the emotions once I pull on that Zambia shirt.”

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Ayr United’s Frankie Musonda discusses swapping the Scottish Championship for the Africa Cup of Nations with Zambia

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The most effective Premier League gamers participating within the Africa Cup of Nations this month

He provides: “After we return, it’s particular. A number of the group play in Europe so they do not see us commonly. I do not put myself on this class however a number of the greater stars are the heroes of the nation. Simply strolling by way of the airport, everybody needs to satisfy us.”

Musonda doesn’t take it without any consideration. The chance to play for Zambia has strengthened his connections to the nation – and to his household. Visits to Kabwe, town the place a lot of his family nonetheless reside, had been rare previous to his worldwide call-up.

“One among my uncles, I had not seen since I used to be eight years {old}. I’ve two cousins who’re comparable ages to me. After I would go over, we’d play soccer on the streets. For them to see me enjoying for Zambia is surreal for all of us. It’s most likely so much crazier for them.”

Zambia national football team players celebrate their victory with their trophy at the end of the African Cup of Nations final football match between Zambia and Ivory Coast on February 12, 2012, at the Stade de l'Amitie in Libreville.
Zambia gained the Africa Cup of Nations in 2012 with a shock victory in Gabon

Musonda was 14 when Zambia shocked a continent by profitable the Africa Cup of Nations in 2012. The may of Ivory Coast have been crushed on penalties within the ultimate and Musonda remembers it properly. “Didier Drogba is one among my heroes,” he remembers.

“To observe him lose to my nation, to observe them try this, was one thing that I simply thought was unbelievable. My dad was in Zambia on the time as properly so we have been on the telephone and I may hear the events occurring within the background there. It was loopy. Unbelievable.”

Zambia haven’t constructed on that success. Certainly, they haven’t gained a sport on the match since their unlikely triumph, failing to qualify on the final three events. “It has not been pretty much as good for us because it most likely ought to have been. However there are nonetheless expectations.”

A 3-0 summer time win over Ivory Coast, this 12 months’s hosts, has elevated these hopes as soon as extra. “It felt a bit surreal.” However additional assessments await them. Their group-stage opponents at AFCON 2023 will embody Morocco, semi-finalists on the 2022 World Cup.

“For my membership, I’ve performed in opposition to just a few stars. However for Zambia, It’s unbelievable the gamers I’ve performed in opposition to and been capable of share a pitch with.” Who stands out? “Yves Bissouma at Mali and Wilfried Zaha for Ivory Coast. When he will get on the ball, it’s particular.”

BRAINTREE, ENGLAND - MARCH 07:  Braintree Town's Frankie Musonda under pressure from Lincoln City's Terry Hawkridge during the Vanarama National League match between Braintree Town and Lincoln City at Ironmongery Direct Stadium on March 7, 2017 in Braintree, England. (Photo by Andrew Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images)
Musonda throughout his time at Braintree City in 2017

However it’s one other participant who greatest illustrates the journey that Musonda has been on. Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu was the person he changed when making his skilled debut for Luton instead in opposition to Mansfield City in League Two in January 2016.

Eight years on and Luton are within the Premier League and Mpanzu, extremely, remains to be enjoying for the Hatters. The pair have been set for an AFCON reunion when Zambia drew the Democratic Republic of Congo in Group F however Mpanzu didn’t make the ultimate squad.

“What he has gone on to do has been outstanding,” says Musonda of his former team-mate. “He’s within the historical past books now.” No one is having fun with Luton’s rise greater than their {old} academy participant. “I’m nonetheless an enormous fan. I watch them on TV each weekend.”

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League conflict between Luton and Chelsea

Musonda is an inspiration in his personal proper. He began his personal teaching enterprise in Bedford earlier than transferring north of the border and even has a enterprise diploma, one thing he began when he was a young person enjoying for Luton. It displays a maturity past his years.

“I felt I had time on my palms and I had seen different gamers round me who didn’t handle to forge careers out of the sport. I may see how rapidly careers can finish. It’s one other string to my bow. I simply need to continue learning. I need to be a bit extra bulletproof.”

He’s studying a language too. Bemba is the language of alternative amongst his Zambia team-mates after they return to play for his or her nation. “I’m choosing up increasingly. I need to converse it fluently. On the pitch, I’m talking a mixture of each Bemba and English now.”

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The one query is how lengthy his AFCON journey will final. In Leicester Metropolis striker Patson Daka, Zambia boast a potent attacking weapon however a lot will rely on the organisation, self-discipline and unity of the supporting solid. Musonda is optimistic.

“We’re a group who’re a bit extra beneath the radar however there’s quite a lot of perception. The purpose is to get out of the group and after that you simply simply need to take it sport by sport. We aren’t there to make up the numbers. We’re there to make the individuals again residence proud.”

Hundreds of thousands of Zambians shall be cheering on the Ayr United defender. “All my family and friends shall be following. Perhaps a pair will come out to see us. They’re all very enthusiastic about it.” And for Musonda? “I simply don’t desire it to finish. Every sport is a blessing.”

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