Zambia defy the odds to win Africa Cup of Nations

A Zambian football team, made up of relatively unknown players, conjured up a shock win over hot favourites Ivory Coast in the Africa Cup of Nations final on Sunday evening. Chipolopolo as they are affectionately known won 8-7 in a dramatic penalty shootout after the game finished 0-0 in regulation time.

What made the win remarkable was that the match was played in exactly the same city as the tragic plane crash 19 years ago that killed 18 Zambian players who were en route to a World Cup qualifier against Senegal. The plane crashed into the sea shortly after a refuelling stop in Gabon.

Zambia’s star player Kalusha Bwalya survived the plane crash in 1993 after he travelled separately from Holland, where he was playing for PSV Eindhoven. Bwalya is now the president of the Zambian Football Association and was the person who made the controversial decision to rehire the current coach, Herve Renard.

Renard has repaid that faith by winning the Africa Cup of Nations and said: “He (Bwalya) survived the crash – he was supposed to have been on that plane which was going to play a World Cup qualifier against Senegal. He knows how terrible this crash was for the nation. I want to dedicate this title to him.”

“We wanted to honour the dead players and that strengthened us. Our first game (in this year's tournament) was against Senegal and the team was on its way to Senegal for a match when the plane crashed. The plane crashed in Gabon and we won the final in Gabon. It was a sign of destiny, written in the sky. There was a force with us. I think God has helped us and given us strength,” Renard added.

Many will find it hard to disagree with Renard. Zambia conceded a penalty during the 70th minute of the game, but Ivory Coast and Chelsea striker Didier Drogba skied his spot kick over the bar. Even when the game went down to a penalty shoot after extra time it was the star players of the Ivory Coast, Kolo Toure (Manchester City) and Gervinho (Arsenal), who missed their penalties.

The contrast with Zimbabwe could not be more poignant. While Zambia have made history by winning their first ever Africa Cup of Nations, Zimbabwe is embroiled in a match fixing scandal that has seen over 80 players and several officials suspended. SW Radio Africa

Post published in: Africa News

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