The 27th of April, 1993 is a tragically memorable date in the history of Zambia. On that day, 18 members of the Zambian national soccer team died in an awful plane accident. It was one of the best squads in the country's history, which could bring Zambia to its first and only World Cup qualification. However, the fate decided otherwise.
Despite such an awful loss, Zambians showed the strongest of wills in that year. Although the Chipolopolo didn't reach the World Cup finals in 1994, they made the whole nation proud of them. Zambians still remember both squads — those who went away, and those who managed to defend their honor. Let's remember this sad, but the incredibly heroic story of strength and loyalty once again.Backstory
In the 1980s, the famous KK (Kenneth Kaunda) was the President of Zambia. As a President, he had one peculiarity — he was passionate about football. The financial support of the 'beautiful game' in the country was incredibly strong. That resulted in many notable achievements of the Zambian national team, such as the incredibly strong performance at the 1988 Summer Olympics. In that competition, Chipolopolo defeated the experienced and mighty Italians 4-0 and went first of their group. It seemed like the new soccer giants emerged on the international arena, and their results would only improve over time.
Unfortunately, then the things changed. In the late 1980s, the Zambian economy was not in its best state. Kenneth Kaunda quit his post in 1991, and the active financial support of the soccer industry totally vanished. Along with the corruption issues, that made the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) incapable of affording the comfortable and safe trips to the away matches. Because of it, the national team often borrowed old and cheap planes from the Zambian Air Force. The same thing happened on that fatal date.The tragic flight
On the 27th of April, 1993 the Zambian team had to travel to Dakar to face Senegal in a World Cup qualification match. To qualify for the competition, Chipolopolo had to come first from the group, which included also Senegal and Morocco. The team's captain, Kalusha Bwalya, and several other key players traveled to Dakar on their own as they were busy with their clubs in Europe the day before. That engagement saved their lives.
After the fueling stop in Libreville, Gabon, the plane with the Zambian squad left the airport. It was an almost 20-year old military aircraft. Several minutes after the takeoff, it exploded over the Atlantic Ocean. All the passengers and pilots were dead.Shock and revival
Having recovered after the shock, Kalusha started to gather a new team. He felt obliged to defend the honor of his perished teammates and his country. The formation of the new Zambian squad was not an easy task as the best country's clubs lost their key players in the accident. But 'difficult' doesn't mean 'impossible'. In two months' time, Zambians were already playing in the World Cup qualifier against Morocco. Moreover, they won it 2-1, causing a lot of excitement in the crowd of fans.
The next qualifying match was a goalless draw with Senegal. Chipolopolo needed anything but the loss in the second game with Morocco to gain a World Cup berth. But the fairytale didn't come true — Zambians lost 1-0 and had to stop one step before the World Cup qualification. Despite that, their compatriots greeted them as the heroes and champions.
The following year, Zambians made it to the Cup of Nations final but lost it to Nigeria. Once again, they lost the match but remained the winners in the eyes of their nation. As for Kalusha, he devoted his whole life to Zambian soccer. Having finished his playing career, he had a coaching stint at the Zambian national team and then became the president of the FAZ.Present time
Zambians nevertheless lifted the Nations Cup. It happened in 2012, in very symbolical circumstances. As the 2012's tournament edition was hosted by Gabon, the final took place in Libreville, nearby the place of the fatal crash. And there is no need to mention what every Zambian was feeling after the historical winning against the Ivory Coast. The players devoted their triumph to those who could lead Zambia to the World Cup finals. And those who will manage to cope with this task will definitely devote their achievement to the same people.
However, there are Zambians who are unhappy even with such progress. These are the relatives of the players who were in the fatal plane in 1993. They still weren't informed about the true reason for the accident, and their wounds will hardly ever heal. ‘I hate football’ we can hear them say. That is the price of the great triumph.
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