Zambia into emotional African Cup final in Gabon
Zambia coach Herve Renard believes it was ”written” that his
team would reach the final of the African Cup of Nations in
The Gabonese capital was the site of the country’s worst
sporting disaster in 1993, when the plane carrying Zambia’s
national team crashed just minutes after taking off, killing 25
players and officials.
After beating Ghana 1-0 in the semifinal in Bata on Wednesday,
Zambia’s players will now make an emotional appearance in
Libreville on Sunday against either Ivory Coast or Mali in an
attempt to win the cup for the first time.
”There’s something written that we have to go to play to honor
the memories of the Zambia national team that died in 1993,” said
Renard, whose eyes shone with emotion as he promised to take the
players to visit the scene of the disaster.
”It was catastrophic for the nation. The 12 million people of
Zambia are waiting for us to go back to Libreville. Immediately
(after) we arrive, we will go to the place. We just have to think
of them and play for them and play for Zambia because it’s a
Zambia was heading to Senegal for a 1994 World Cup qualifier
when the plane crashed into the ocean shortly after taking off,
wiping out a generation of top players.
Only Kalusha Bwalya, the country’s biggest star, was spared as
he was due to meet up with the rest of the squad in West Africa
after traveling separately from his club side in Europe. His
teammates never arrived.
With Bwalya at the heart, Zambia rebuilt its team – almost
overnight – and reached the final of the African Cup one year later
on a wave of emotion. But the team lost to Nigeria and has never
been to a title game at the continental championship since.
”It means a lot,” said Bwalya, who is now president of the
Zambian football federation. ”Everybody’s so happy to be where we
are. It’s the boys who have done it. I think when we go to
Libreville that we will get emotional.
”I think there will be a reconnect between the new team and the
old team and hopefully we can end it well on Sunday.”
Captain Christopher Katongo said there would never be a better
time to pay homage to the victims of the crash.
”This is the moment,” he said. ”This is the final. The tears
will be dropping from the fans when they watch the final. When we
step on the field, we have to do everything we can to get this