You couldn’t have come up with a better ending to the 2012 African Cup of Nations. Zambia won the trophy for the first time, in the place where 18 of their players tragically died in a plane crash in 1993.
Last summer I was lucky enough to be one of the five Loughborough Students to get selected to go to Zambia as part of the Zambia IDEALS project. This was where I first witnessed the unbelievable talent of Zambian football.
I was shocked by the level of skill and asked my peer leader Sammy why I had never really heard of the Zambia Football team during my lifetime. Sammy told me the story of the tragic plane crash and the damage it caused Zambian football. Seeing that this news had shocked me, with a smile, he uttered the words “but we will win it for them in Gabon.” With this statement we both laughed.
It was clear from the start of the tournament Zambia were playing for the team of 93. The tournament draw meant that Zambia would only get to play in Libreville, Gabon (where the plane crash occurred) by reaching the final. This was the dream, to get to the final.
To win it initially wasn’t in the minds of the Chipolopolo fans or players. To win was truly a fairytale.
During this fairytale, Zambia beat all three of the pre-tournament favourites, Senegal, Ghana and Ivory Coast. A lot of credit should go to coach Herve Renard whose tactics made Zambia disciplined in defence and so deadly on the counter attack.
It was a joy to watch Zambia during this tournament, from the very start of the tournament to the end they have played the most attractive football and they are more than deserved winners.
On a weekend where football has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, the African Nations final has firmly put football in the news for the right reasons.
Straight away after the match I rang my friends in Zambia to congratulate them. I know the party continued long into the night in Lusaka, with many 7.85% alcohol sachets drunk, even more John Cena ‘You Can’t See Me’ impressions and many more smiling and singing Zambians.
Osaibala. Never forget.