African Cup of Nations: Zambia Completes a Fairy Tale Story

Nate KahnContributor IIIFebruary 13, 2012

NELSPRUIT, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 25:  Dejected Didier Drogba of the Ivory Coast after victory in the game but elimination from the tournament during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group G match between North Korea and Ivory Coast at the Mbombela Stadium on June 25, 2010 in Nelspruit, South Africa.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

There have been many wonderful stories in the history of soccer where teams have overcome the odds to perform heroic victories. The Chipolopolo’s victory over Ivory Coast on Sunday was such a victory. However, this victory took on greater significance, because of what transpired 19 years ago in the same country where Zambia lifted the trophy yesterday.

In 1993, Zambia were on the verge of qualifying for their first ever World Cup. The team flew to Gabon for a stopover, before they were supposed to head to Senegal for a qualifier. The plane however, had an engine problem and the pilot was not prepared to deal with the situation. It crashed off of the coast of Gabon, killing all of the members on board.

Nineteen years later, the African Cup of Nations was held in Gabon. Since that time Zambia had struggled to get back to the level of play that the team in 1993 had achieved. However, when the team arrived in Gabon they were playing with a purpose.

The memory of the 30 people that lost their lives during the plane-crash in 1993 was on the minds of every player. They visited a site close to the plane crash and laid flowers there in honor of the departed. The members of the current squad were determined to have a great tournament for the players that lost their lives on that fateful day in 1993.

Zambia was a heavy underdog throughout the tournament. They had to beat African powers Senegal and Ghana along the way to the final. Once they got there, they faced the mighty Ivory Coast and no one gave them a chance. The Chipolopolo fought as hard as they could to keep Ivory Coast from scoring and sent the game to penalties. They were a bit lucky though, as Didier Drogba did miss a penalty. In the shootout, Zambia would win 8-7 to take their first ever championship.

The tragedy that happened in 1993 is a far more important event than the triumph on the pitch in 2012. The joy of winning on the field won’t surpass the sorrow that the nation felt when they heard the fateful news. However, the championship does give the people of Zambia something to celebrate in a long struggling nation. Also, the families that lost loved ones on this day may be able to take some comfort in knowing that their loved ones would have been very proud of the teams achievement.