Abel Kanyamuna: The teenager flying the flag for Zambia in Italy

Zambian footballer Abel Kanyamuna
Zambian footballer Abel Kanyamuna is playing for the under-17 side at Serie A club Cagliari

Carrying a nation's expectations on your shoulders can be a heavy burden but must be even harder if you are 16 and venturing into virgin territory.

That is the pressure facing Zambian footballer Abel Kanyamuna after he became the first player from his nation to feature at any level in Italy.

The defensive midfielder is on the books of the Serie A side Cagliari's under-17 team and has his sights on climbing the ladder in Italy.

A product of the Chipata Township in the Zambian capital Lusaka, Kanyamuna benefitted from his high school grades that earned him an academic scholarship to Italy.

His gateway into Europe was the Ponsacco Football Academy in Italy, where he spent six months learning the language and taking his first steps in Italian football.

He then spent six months at Serie C side U.S. Pistoiese 1921 based in Pistoia, about 60km from Ponsacco.

"It was not easy coming straight from Zambia into Europe. I had to adapt very quickly and knew that if I lost focus, I would also lose the opportunity," he says.

"The language and the culture are different. I was lucky because the person I was staying with was also an English speaker so that made it easy for me somehow to understand Italian."

Kanyamuna eventually caught the eye of Serie A club Empoli's satellite side Santa Maria Empoli which is where Cagliari spotted him.

The 16-year old, who made his Zambia under-17 debut as a 15-year old in June 2017, considered other top Italian sides but found a home at Cagliari.

"I got into Cagliari set up in June, about a month before the league started then I got my registration," he explained.

"The environment is good because I have found a lot of people who welcomed me warmly. The environment is perfect and I am happy.

"The league is very tough but I believe we can do more and reach a better position."

Zambian ambitions

Zambian footballer Abel Kanyamuna
Abel Kanyamuna is hoping to not only play in the Italian Serie A but also for Zambia's youth teams

Kanyamuna is hopeful of playing for any of the Zambian junior teams.

"If it does not interfere with my school I will definitely be available for Zambia," he insisted.

"I really want my school grades to remain good. But outside my school programs I would be hundred percent available."

The teenager also pointed out that a lack of structured academies in Zambia hampers the development of many young players.

"Many young players do not have the possibility to play at an organized academy," he lamented.

"If we could do such things for the whole of Zambia, we could have good future players who can perform in higher clubs.

"A lot of young people do not know the use of football until they are older, which is a very difficult thing. People start playing football very late when it is hard to teach them new things."

He is encouraged by the number of African players plying their in Italy.

"The number of African players playing for top teams in Italy make it easy for me to realize how possible it is for me to realize my dream of playing for the first team of a Serie A side," he says.

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