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Zambia's Nations Cup triumph 'written in the sky'

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Piers Edwards | 22:02 UK time, Monday, 13 February 2012

Sometimes sport throws up stories of human spirit that you cannot help but watch with a warm smile - as Zambia's first-ever Africa Cup of Nations success did on Sunday.

The triumph, taking place in the same country as the side's devastating tragedy in 1993, may have disappointed Ivory Coast fans, but any neutral can only marvel at the southern Africans' fairytale win - a mental and sporting triumph which beat the odds in similar fashion to the European titles of Denmark (1992) and Greece (2004), or that of Iraq's 2007 Asian champions.

Rank outsiders to win this competition, the Zambian squad repeatedly cited the devastating air disaster that killed 18 of their national team off the coast of Gabon 19 years ago as an inspiration to do well - a mission statement that even their own fans struggled to believe at first.

Lest we forget, the Chipolopolo don't even have a proper home after Lusaka's main stadium was declared unsafe a few years back while they also travelled to the Nations Cup with an injury to key man Jacob Mulenga, one half of the country's entire Europe-based contingent.

Zambian players hold up a banner commemorating the Chipolopolo players, coaches and officials who died in the 1993 air disaster off the coast of Gabon

As many of you will already know, the 1993 tragedy took place en route to a World Cup qualifier in Senegal, with an old military aircraft exploding into the sea shortly after refuelling in the Gabonese capital Libreville.

When the Nations Cup draw was made last October, it transpired that because Zambia were to be based in Equatorial Guinea - the co-hosts - the only way they would get to play a match in Gabon was if they reached the final.

This seemed most unlikely. The Chipolopolo were 40/1 to win the competition, one of their best players was injured, they had just changed their coach and they were up against a highly fancied Senegal side in Group A.

But what could have seemed an insurmountable obstacle was viewed as a mere trifle, with many in the squad seeing the match-up with Senegal as a sign of destiny for a delegation led by Kalusha Bwalya, who only missed the ill-fated 1993 flight because he was playing in Europe at the time and travelled to the match on his own.

"Our first game was against Senegal and the team was on its way to Senegal for a match when the plane crashed," said Zambia coach Herve Renard, who dedicated the title to Bwalya.

"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."

In 1994, Bwalya improbably inspired a team of one-time reserves to the most unlikely place in a Nations Cup final as a newly constructed side relied upon team spirit to finish runners-up. Nearly two decades on, that same emotional courage delivered unforgettable success.

But crucially, Zambia also had a talented team to back up that courage - for all the understandable talk, there is otherwise surely only so far mental strength can take you.

Despite accommodation problems and boasting a squad of Africa-based players, the Chipolopolo tore apart the Senegal of Demba Ba, Papiss Demba Cisse and Mamadou Niang in their opening game, winning 2-1 after blitzing a ragged defence with some thrilling free-flowing football.

The rollercoaster had begun, with Rainford Kalaba, Emmanuel Mayuka and captain Chris Katongo looking an exciting frontline.

After a 2-2 draw with Libya and a 1-0 win over their Equatoguinean co-hosts, Zambia topped Group A to avoid a quarter-final clash with favourites Ivory Coast. Instead they met, and defeated, Sudan 3-0 in the first match to be played at the finals after the Port Said disaster in Egypt, with the minute's silence for the victims of that tragedy no doubt providing a further moment of reflection for the Zambians.

Remarkably, the Chipolopolo were through to the semi-finals but their problems were hardly at an end - World Cup quarter-finalists Ghana lay in wait. Renard trotted out the old line about his team being under no pressure while Black Star Sulley Muntari dismissed the Frenchman, who worked with the Ghanaians during the 2008 Nations Cup, as just a physical trainer.

But a man who started out coaching amateur sides at the weekends, while running a cleaning company in the week, had the last laugh, keeping Switzerland-based Mayuka - a player attracting the attention of many European clubs - on the bench until late in the second half, before he grabbed a glorious winner.

Only now could the Zambians fly to Gabon, where the delegation wasted no time in honouring the fallen heroes of 1993, holding a special ceremony shortly after landing on the nearest mainland spot to where the plane had come down just half a kilometre away.

Kalusha Bwalya (in suit) is flanked by Sports Minister Chisimba Kambwili (left) and national captain Chris Katongo (right) at Thursday's beach ceremony, while coach Herve Renard (far left) keeps to the sidelines

Back in 1993, a crowd of 100,000 lined the streets for the state funeral of the players - their coffins draped in national flags - as a country mourned, emotions best exemplified by the moving eulogy of veteran Zambian commentator Dennis Liwewe.

In the run-up to the final, the BBC spoke to Freeman Chabala, whose goalkeeper father Efford Chabala died in the Gabon disaster, and even though winning against Ivory Coast on Sunday would not bring his father back, Freeman said he believed it would close a chapter.

"[The final] is bringing the memory of our fallen heroes - our parents - to mind," he said. "The players are there to represent us and we are all counting on them, so I expect them to do their best so that they can finish the job."

They did and in the most dramatic fashion, as Didier Drogba missed a spot-kick in regulation time before an absorbing, albeit goalless, final went to a penalty shoot-out, won by Zambia, thanks in no small part to goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene (who scored one himself during the shoot-out).

It was the final twist in a tournament full of them - led by Equatorial Guinea knocking out Senegal, before fellow co-hosts Gabon did the same to Morocco in the game of the finals.

Zambia had done it the hard way and the best way, playing the most expansive football at a finals where they beat the three favourites - Senegal, Ghana and an Ivory Coast side who were desperately unlucky to lose the tournament without conceding a single goal.

Opportunities will arise for the skilful Kalaba and Mayuka, formerly linked with Newcastle United and whose potential arrival can only be helped by Zambia's impending rise above the English work permit threshold of 70th place in the Fifa rankings.

While the players and an emotional Bwalya celebrated, fans back home freely admitted they had never expected the success - with some supporters going to pray on Monday at the graves of the 18 players.

"We wanted to win the trophy so those who died may rest in peace," said winger Felix Katongo, before boarding the plane home in Libreville, at the very airport where the fallen heroes last set foot on the ground. "Now their souls are at peace."

At long last, Zambian football has entered a new era.


  • Comment number 1.

    Mabrouk from Egypt! Zambia's victory, and circumstances surrounding it, are an inspiration for the entire continent.

  • Comment number 2.

    It was a terrific match and it was great to see hard work and team spirit overcome celebrity. Once the so-called experts on ITV4 had declared it a foregone conclusion it was obvious Zambia would win. Great expert commentary by Jim Beglin during this final.

  • Comment number 3.

    Well done to the teams, but what about most PL stars flattering to deceive again? K.Toure & one or two others excluded?

    Most of these players are hailed as magnificent over here, so failing to shine in a tournament of generally poor quality says a lot about the standard of competition in the domestic game also.


  • Comment number 4.

    Quietly engrossed in this!! It reminds you why we love football.

    Brilliant to see the big 'I-ams' shown up again. Why do all the big stars always forget this is a TEAM sport. The Zambians showed great togetherness and brilliant application - a team effort to be proud of regardless of what they were playing for..

  • Comment number 5.

    The success story of the year so far perhaps. It goes to show that a team of 11 players can beat 11 talented individuals. It must be painful for the Ivory Coast to fall at the same hurdle as before, but maybe they just didn't have the will to win.

    Hats of to Zambia and I hope they enjoy their success.

  • Comment number 6.

    Great article. Interesting to note also that the Ivory Coast were the last team to defeat the departed Zambia team at the Africa Cup, 1-0 (after extra time), in the 1992 Africa Cup quarterfinals. That was a few months before the plane crash.

  • Comment number 7.

    congratulations to the chipolopolo!!!!!
    Africa cup is more of team work and not how many stars you have in the team. Egypt has always been doing what Zambia has done but its been difficult for the international ( European) media to analyze the Africa cup but always opt to go for the number of European based players in the team to pick the favorites. we hope to see a different analysis next year.

    Great football from Zambia.... its worth to be called AFRICAN Champions

  • Comment number 8.

    There's nothing quite like an entertaining (dare not take your eye off it) game of Football, whether it be a top of the League clash or some (so called) also-rans battling in a far-off Galaxy.

    If I were a Footballer - I'd love to have been involved.

  • Comment number 9.

    Too much corruption in footbol for me to think this is a cindarella success... if it smells like a fix, it probably is..

  • Comment number 10.

    Massive win for Zambia! The script was written and the players delivered it to absolute perfection (If ever there was such a thing as ''absolute perfection").
    With all the history linked to the Zambian team... the Senegal-Gabon factor etc, another noteworthy point would be that the Ivory Coast were the last to play and defeat the departed Zambian team at the Africa Cup, 1-0 (after extra time), in the 1992 Africa Cup quarterfinals hosted by Senegal. There's that Gabon - Senegal - Ivory Coast connection yet again. Interesting bits of information, hey.

  • Comment number 11.

    9. At 12:38 14th Feb 2012, Money wrote:
    Too much corruption in footbol for me to think this is a cindarella success... if it smells like a fix, it probably is..


    Give it a rest!

  • Comment number 12.

    I stood at the roadside like a kid. I screamed when they passed by in the army truck from the airport!! Yes I saw them all!! Herve Renard, Kalaba, Mayuka, Mweene, the whole team!! Our soccer stars were back home with the Afcon CUP!!
    I was only 5 in '93 but I still remember the coffins, the people weeping in the streets!! The whole nation was on their knees. The president couldn't hold it and cried loudly whilst giving his speech! We all cried! And to think my birthday was on that tragic day, its saddening!! And the players knew it whilst playing at the 2012 finals!! It was a written script!! The 1993 players were on their way to Senegal when they crashed in Gabon and at Afcon 2012, we were grouped with Senegal. Fate! In 2012, we qualified to the final which was to be played in Gabon, a few miles from the crash site!! Fate again! Not even the 'elephants' [Ivory Coast] could stop us. Why would the elephant want to stop a charged copper bullet[chipolopolo]??

    And just like we stood along the 20kilometer great east road waiting for the dead bodies of our heroes in '93, we did it as well in 2012. Except this time, we finished the mission of our dead heroes! They were one point away from qualifying for the '94 US world cup. And with the way things went for us at the Africa cup in 2012, I cant help but believe we're going to Brazil in 2014!!
    The whole country was in a frenzy. People were in tears of joy. Some people wonder why football is so much followed and they dont see any sense in it. But one answer I have for them is that football heals nations [South Africa], and it teaches us that; even when the odds are against you, never stop having hope and faith [chelsea 3-3 Man utd], that you dont have to be at your best to achieve your goal [Zambia 1-0 Ghana] and that just because everyone says you cant achieve your goal doesnt mean you should lose the belief that you can achieve it [Zambia Afcon champions]...

    God bless Zambia and may our dead heroes souls finally REST IN PEACE!!! Viva Chipolopolo [copper bullet].........

  • Comment number 13.

    Well said swindonbluearmy, what a dolt money is, adversity brings close squads even closer, you only have to look at the nightmare pompey have been through, unpaid, just about to go into administration (again) but still keeping the ball on the floor and playing for the shirt. The fact that they're not overpayed primadonna's (chelsea on saturday anyone?) probably added to the team spirit, that coupled with the fact no-one gave them a cats chance in hell took all the pressure off, whilst Ivory coast with their so called stars just didnt perform - good on you Zambia, you have gained another (jaded Arsenal) fan

  • Comment number 14.

    Having watched whole tournament on Orange TV France I can only say well done to them for giving the tournament national TV coverage - when will we recognise that this is a great tournament that deserves more than a slot on ITV4

    Zambia were great all the way through and deserved every success - no hint of fix No 9 beause Ivory Coast looked like a bunch of aging stars going through the motions and ready to crack when it came to the crunch - which they did!.

    Gervinho was guaranteed to miss his spot kick as he avoided being in first five and even then waited till everyone else had had a go. The big PL names were all missing in action and were outplayed by a team with spirit and commitment.

    It was well deserved success for a small country with big hearts - i loved very minute of their great night.

  • Comment number 15.

    i had a feeling the posts would be pouring in for a blog on the tournament after many were crying for it because so much was blogged about the suarez affair.

    "look at the posts go were almost in the 20's".

    poor tourny with even worse divers and playacters than you see in europe.

  • Comment number 16.

    So happy for Zambia, great to see the massive underdogs win! The moment of the match was when they were taking penalties and the Zambia players and staff were singing (praying), it was a great touch. I know Gervinho would miss, not a great goalscorer, i'm sure you will agree who have seen him play for Arsenal, the arsenal fans will probably agree with the fact that they don't want him in a 1 on 1 position with the keeper.

    Can't believe Ivory Coast didn't concede a goal ( 90 mins + extra time of course) in the whole tournament and still didn't win haha!

  • Comment number 17.

    9.At 12:38 14th Feb 2012, Money wrote:
    Too much corruption in footbol for me to think this is a cindarella success... if it smells like a fix, it probably is..

    You are wrong on this one it has cost Yaya over £1,000,000 alone to represent his nation, for once football has been a winner

  • Comment number 18.

    What a fantastic exhibition for the game of Football. Congratulations to Zambia on winning the Africa Cup of Nations... An example to the England team on true pride, faith and what it really means to represent your country...

  • Comment number 19.

    I am really proud of the Zambian team. I lived in Zambia for a short while, a couple of years ago, and the skill and passion of all the children playing football is amazing. Just as it is for the adults. Like many of the footballers in Africa, they play bare footed and on rather "interesting" pitches. They thoroughly deserve the win and I hope it puts Zambia on the football map.

  • Comment number 20.

    correction.......... "the Chipolopolo don't even have a proper home after Lusaka's main stadium was declared unsafe a few years back" ............ they have a new home NDOLA STADIUM, and two more are under construction in two different cities, including the replacement of the Lusaka stadium (independence stadium)

    i just want to see how they will fare as african Champions especially that they are in the same group with Ghana for world cup 2014 qualifiers.

  • Comment number 21.

    ACON is always a brilliant tournament, albeit it had a very different feel this time around with so many of the bigger nations not qualifying. Some people need to lighten up and appreciate football in all its guises - anyone who failed to be entertained by Eq Guinea - Senegal and Gabon - Morocco for example, surely does not enjoy football. Easily 2 of the best games I've seen for some time.

    None of the bigger nations who did qualify were in good form, which lends itself to the argument that their players are playing too much football. Ivory Coast looked utterly shattered even before ET in the final (only their subs kept them in it in the later stages I thought). Right from the first round of matches, only Zambia, Guinea and Mali looked like sharp, well-organised, astute sides who were at least trying to play decent football IMO.

    Big credit must go to Renard for the success, although Zambia also had quality right throughout the side. Solid at the back and with quality in the middle and up front. Delighted they won. No disrespect to the Ivory Coast coach, but his gameplan was not obvious in any game I saw, other than get the ball to big name X (the same applies to Senegal).

    A lot of playacting though and not great refereeing either IMO. In particular, a big shout out to Libya in their first game, dropping like flies whenever they got into the box. I'm sure the conditions played a part on some occasions, considering the heat. But the individual award must go to Drogba for his display against Mali, rolling back the years with an oscar-winning display of apparent head injuries!

  • Comment number 22.

    Football is not a game I usually take notice of, but because of my many emotional ties with Zambia, I kept my eyes on this tournament from start to finish. I am delighted by Zambia's victory; many congratulations to the team, the trainer and all the back room staff. For Kalusha Bwalya, it will have been not only a day of triumph, but one of many private memories. At the time of the air crash in 1993, Godfrey Chitalu was the coach. I saw him play many times, or if not we would gather round the radio to listen to Dennis Liwewe's stirring commentaries. - I'm sure today's players have their nicknames, but for me, the resounding cry of "U-car!!!!" every time Chitalu scored still rings loudest of all.

    I know how much it means to many Zambians, from Kasama to Livingstone, from Chipata to Senanga, to be Africa Champions. Good luck to all of them. Very well played the Chipolopolo!

  • Comment number 23.

    Quite delighted for Zambia, our neighbours to the South (I'm in Tanzania). Match ended at some minutes to 2 a.m, but you could still hear lots of cheering when the winning penalty went in!

    Zambia's triumph should serve as a lesson to Eastern and Southern Africa who rarely win this tournament. Zambia has a good amount of Zambians who play in the Superdiski, shamefully South African hasn't been in their best form since the glory days of Mark Fish, McCarthy and so on. You don't need a lot of European-based players to win tournaments. It's good coaching and tactics, self-belief and discipline that will get you there. I hope our national team, Taifa Stars learn a lot from the Zambians who've come to play a lot here.

    But I think the Cote d'Ivoire's tactics were wrong on the day. How Gervinho remained for the whole 120 minutes, heaven knows. I hope the Ox puts him on the bench for a good while, so that he can learn some shooting and crossing. How did he ever score all those goals in ligue 1?!

  • Comment number 24.

    Shame on you BBC! your coverage of just concluded African Nations Cup was diabolical. Infact it was a disgrace.

    Why was their no forum for us to discuss the games and players proper when the competition was going on? So it has become a luxury for us to be given a forum to air our views on our beloved nations cup.

    Shame on you, you ruined the nations cup for us. Their was a lot of things we were dying to talk about while the competition was on-going.

    You only gave us a forum just as the competition was about to start and now just after it finished. This is just a red-hairing and totally unacceptable. If you are lazy mate, get another job!

  • Comment number 25.

    @Gascon32 Just be grateful that ITV4 picked up the rights after it was dropped by a previous broadcaster.

    More subtantively, every single member of the squad that England take to the Euros should be made to watch the Zambian matches, including the penalty shoot out final - stuff of legends.

  • Comment number 26.

    ...My fav moments of the final was the Zambian coach screaming MAYUKAAAAAA for all of the 120minutes!!!! (I think we would all have known which player to blame had Zambia lost! lol)

    ..seriously!! about bringing your "hairdryer" to the field!

    said "Mayukaaaaaa!!!" deserves a bonus for maintaining composure! haha

  • Comment number 27.

    Well written article by Piers Edwards (not the D.Bond style article posted yesterday). I like most others have been waiting for an article on the African cup from the BBC. Even though this is a bit late, it has been well written.
    This was a competition were football and its passion won. The technical aspect of the game may not have been the highest of standards, stadia were not sold out, but there was harmony amongst most nations and the referees were not a major talking point. Yes some big name countries were missing, but this was due to the 'smaller name' countries knocking them out during the qualifiers therby earning their rightful place
    Lastly, credit the the Zambian team for the way they took the game to the Ivoriens (they would have been unlucky if Drogba had scored the penalty). They are worthy champions, and should celeberate their fallen heroes and move on as a nation.

  • Comment number 28.


    Clearly a City fan with 'exceptions' like that.

  • Comment number 29.

    To my friend who smells corruption..
    I think you need to have your nose medically checked. In fact, have them check your eyes while you're at it. We were exciting, organised, played the best football and had a genuine hunger for the title.. You don't buy that..
    I hope the doctors work on your hearing and sight quickly..
    In the meantime, just take your place and bow..

  • Comment number 30.

    Well done Chipolopolo! Really deserved this after the tragedy that happened only 500m from the venue of the final, what a poignant moment it was to see Kalusha holding the cup. Many might not be aware of this but 4 of those that played for Zambia on that night (Rainford Kalaba, Stopilla Sunzu, Francis Kasonde and Hichani Himoonde) represented TP Mazembe in the club world cup final only a year ago. They beat some of the world's best to get to that final. So yes, even though they don't play in illustrious leagues like most of the opposition they met here, they had faced bigger tests before. African football is not as far behind as many would want to believe. IMO it just lacks good organization. Good blog, refreshingly different.

  • Comment number 31.

    Two things I want to comment on. Piers Edwards was one of many who predicted Ivory Coast, Ghana and Ivory Coast as favorites, without given credence to the the factor he has brilliantly analyzed. Is it 20-20 hindsight or having many Ghanaian friends in the African department?

    The next point is Sulley Muntari's comment. That is a classic case of why Ghana always disappoints. The players are concerned about being quoted in the media rather than studying their opponents in detail. Ghana players prefer speaking like spectators in the stands than professionals who need to talk respectfully of the opposition irrespective of what is said in the dressing room or training ground. This evening for example, Kelving Prince Boateng is being quoted as saying Arsenal is nothing to Milan, among other disparaging comments.

  • Comment number 32.

    I had two memorable and defining years working in Zambia in the late 1990's. It was an incredible experience, sans the near-death malaria, but such wonderful people. Loved it and hated it, but Zambia did leave a mark on me.

    AT the time we lived in Kitwe and there was a ACN game on, and standing outside you could hear the noise from houses as to how the game was going. The Zambian peoples passion for football was immense, and the pain of the events of 1993 was stil raw. People and the press were hard critics with that new generation that hard to take over those that died.

    It's just wonderful that the Chipolopolo have won against the odds. I can image the parties in Lusaka, Kitwe, Ndola, Kabwe, Kasanka, Mwinilunga, Luanshya, Mufilira, Chililabombwe, Chingola, Livingstone and Mumbwa.

    Well done!

  • Comment number 33.

    May I also add that the refereeing, even though a few mistakes may have been made, was of a much better standard than what we see in the epl or other European leagues every week. There weren't any highly controversial decisions which usually decide the outcomes of matches at these supposedly better matches/tournaments.

  • Comment number 34.

    Thank you for such a wonderful article. As a Ghanaian, I can honestly say that I am whole-heartedly pleased for the Zambian team and the Zambian nation. They defeated three very tough teams fair and square, and the "back-story" of laying the memories of 1993 to rest is a moving and very human one. That a team with a collective focus, passion and spirit (Sunzu's performances even before the final, really stood out for me) can overcome teams which on paper (football's played on grass, not paper, as they say) heavily out-classed them, is inspiring, too. A tonic when we are faced with headlines about Mancini-&-his-billion-dollar-ego (MCFC will no doubt jettison that albatross as soon as they can)...

  • Comment number 35.

    I also congratulate Zambia as a way of consoling my frined who had to lleave his studies to go back to Zambia to bury his wife who suddenly passed away. Mufingwe, I hope this victory will somewhat lighten your burden.

  • Comment number 36.

    Congrats Chipolopolo, you guys have done us proud. 1 lesson one can pick from this is "skill, hard work, team work", throw in tactic skills from the coach equals success. Thanks to the SADC region, too, you guys offered the team a lot of support

  • Comment number 37.

    Sub-standard tournament given sub-standard coverage. It's great that there was a fairy-tale ending but ultimately it's a dull competition of comparatively poor quality.

    The coverage it is given is based on the viewing figures - you can't expect mainstream coverage of an international tournament midway through the league season. Move it to the summer and it might get back onto BBC3...

  • Comment number 38.

    "Most of these players are hailed as magnificent over here, so failing to shine in a tournament of generally poor quality says a lot about the standard of competition in the domestic game also."

    I just think maybe the premier league stars were not as motivated to win the tournament as the zambians. I think it tells us that money and fame comes over patriosm.

  • Comment number 39.

    Why in USA major cable companies want us to buy adult content programs, watch sponge bob and other TV series that the only contribution they do to human race is global warming from TV sets and can't broadcast a single AFCON match?

  • Comment number 40.

    To ALL GHANAINS who refused to concede defeat saying Zambia's win was a flook? i've got news for you folks, that come June....World cup qualifiers, you will be facing the African Champions 2012, at home in a brand new Stadium which is named after our beloved late president Levy P. Mwanawasa - MHSRIP. Watch out...!!!

  • Comment number 41.


    Big names don't win tournaments, especially in Africa. Egypt's dominance of AFCON and Zambia's maiden victory demonstrate this fact very clearly. The quality exhibited throughout the tournament can hold its on anywhere on this planet. Thoroughly enjoyed the tournament not only because am Zambian but it was a reminder of what football is all about-when you remove the glamour, the glitz, celebrity and everything else that taints football in the much lauded leagues around Europe.

  • Comment number 42.

    Incredible to think Herve Renard managed Cambridge United in 2004.

  • Comment number 43.

    I didn't watch all of the games, but what stood out for me was at no point (in what I saw) was the referee crowded by players yelling at him or telling him what to do. What a huge testimony to fair play and the moral character of these players. I hope the PL boys come back having learned from the experience, and put it in to practice in the PL. We desperately need some decent standards for a bit in this country.

    And well done Zambia. Am really pleased for the nation, as their desire to play good football and win was there for all to see. I was totally confident they would win - from the moment Gervinho had to take a penalty. (I'm a gunner, so know all about his confidence in front of goal).

  • Comment number 44.

    good blog, nice to see one not about suarez liverpool or terry.
    congrats to zambia i wish i put a fiver on them!

  • Comment number 45.

    Now i know why big names in african football like Nigeria, Cameroun, Egypt, didnt feature in afcon this year, i shd have seen it coming cos pple kept saying this will be the yr for an unexpected team, little did i know it was already written in the stars for zambia.
    i'm happy they can now use this win to put that tragic loss behind them. initially i was 50 50 btw zambians, for this reason n ivorians cos, such a good team, but no afcon trophy n d team is ageing. Ivorians need not worry about this loss thoh cos it was meant to b for zambia, n nothing any other team cld've done.
    i agree about gervinho's form, but watch out for him when he returns, this afcon final experience will make him realise som'n has 2 be done about his goal scoring form.

  • Comment number 46.

    Bollukov,bollukov,bollukov. Sub-standard tournament given sustandard coverage,our cup of nations finals,substandard? All you guys were in South Africa and other spain and the Netherlands you were all utter rubbish. Our Ghana was only ejected after Suarez became a goal keeper giving his team two goal keepers. Where are you, Russia,what have you won in our time ? Italy,Germany,Turkey,Greece, and everywhere else over there the game is played by corruption and you call out tournament sub-standard,because it was clean ? TV reaches Africa from everywhere and we see what goes on in countries. DONT BE A PRETENDER!!!!

  • Comment number 47.

    The ACON is a complete and utter waste of money. An absolute rubbish tournament. How can a team like Zambia win? An absolute rubbish tornament won by an absolute rubbish team full of absolute rubbish player. Hope they get rid of this absolutely rubbish tournament soon. Complete, utter rubbish.

  • Comment number 48.

    haha haha, so funni, the'll always be ur type- king of the east, where ever there is good, there is also evil or bad, wherever there is genuine progress or success, they'll always be haters, back biters n stabbers, so its ok, u're just a part of the unique world we leave in.

  • Comment number 49.


  • Comment number 50.

    Do you honestly think the ACON is a good tournament?

  • Comment number 51.

    ""The ACON is a complete and utter waste of money. An absolute rubbish tournament. How can a team like Zambia win? An absolute rubbish tornament won by an absolute rubbish team full of absolute rubbish player. Hope they get rid of this absolutely rubbish tournament soon. Complete, utter rubbish.""

    This empty head sounds as animal like officers giving orders in concentration camps during WWII. Mind your own money and super cups and leave Africans and their competitions alone. None of them has any dependency on you. There is nothing in which we need your sympathy or approval.

  • Comment number 52.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 53.

    whatdoiknowaboutanything wrote:
    "...was the referee crowded by players yelling at him or telling him what to do. What a huge testimony to fair play and the moral character of these players"

    Well said, there was none of that, nor did we see the now all too familiar pushing and shoving stuff that now seems to be part & parcel of the game in Europe. The only exception seemed to be Drogba who somewhat seemed like he had rolled the diving years back, but fortunately noone paid much attention to him.

    On another note, how a nation that once humiliated 3-time world cup winners Italy 4-0 in the 1988 olympics be classed as "absolute rubbish" is beyond me. I would expect the poster to come from a country that's in the top 10 in the world to be able to say anything remotely close to that.

  • Comment number 54.

    King Of The East = troll

    Ignore this lunatic

  • Comment number 55.

    Have you guys seen that someone commenting here needs to take some meds?
    Just ignore that simpleton and mind other comments from people with no mental issues.

  • Comment number 56.

    Troll? I think you may be looking in the mirror my friend.

  • Comment number 57.

    How can anyone say that ACON is a good tournament? If a team like Zambia wins then it clearly shows how utterly rubish it is. Poor tournament...

  • Comment number 58.

    The ACON must be rubbish if a team like (eeerrrmmm oh yeah) Zambia wins it. Rubbish tournament. Cannot believe you deluded people find it entertaining.

  • Comment number 59.


  • Comment number 60.

    Zambia rendered Your top EPL players useless, Demba Ba, Gyan (EX), Drogba, Kalou, Gevinho, Kolo, they were all having a good tournament till they met the Copper Bullets. Funny enough, A Chelsea, Manchester city and Arsenal player each missed a penalty for the Ivorians, figures.

    King of the east, Wabetole.

  • Comment number 61.

    Congrats Zambia.

    "Despite accommodation problems and boasting a squad of Africa-based players...."

    Most of them are based in South Africa and Congo.

    “TP Mazembe has seven players from Zambia so it is easy because they understand each other." - Zambia Coach Herve Renard

    Team Cohesion, Team Cohesion, Team Cohesion

  • Comment number 62.

    Hearty congratulations to Champions Chipolopolo.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 63.

    sscouser, I remember you from the blog your link leads to. I was saying it is unfortunate Egypt, Cameroon, South Africa, Nigeria and RDC won't be there. However what can be more exciting than having a winner no one has predicted could win?

    About playing in Europe it doesn't matter even if you play on Mars, another planet or galaxy. It is our competition, we like it the way it is, we enjoy it and we need nobody's approval to feel that way. If you don't like AFCON watch what you like and leave us alone.

  • Comment number 64.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 65.

    Piers. Fantastic article. I screamed and then shed some tears Sunday night. I was at the game in Casablanca in 93 with the ref from Gabon. Good old FIFA! The emotion of the injustice that day can be released a little. Still World Cup Finals to make before completely excorcised but happy happy days. 2012 it's a great year already.

  • Comment number 66.

    This is such a well written article and congratulations to Zambia for winning against all odds. It's such an inspirational story after what happened to the Zambian team which perished when the plane crashed in the Atlantic ocean just off the Gabon coast.
    The fallen heroes have been honoured in the right manner and please posters ignore this small minded person( KING OF DA EAST) with nothing better to do with his time. Great article and a real triumph against all odds and a good example of how team-work and togetherness can triumph over individual brilliance. Well done Zambia.

  • Comment number 67.

    An exciting tournament, I always enjoy watching the African Cup of Nations. I felt Zambia were a good outside bet at the beginning of the tournament, after Ivory Coast, Ghana and Senegal. Felt they had a very good chance of winning the final as Ivory Coast often crumble when their opponents do not fear their reputation or the fact that Ivory Coast are usually favourites.
    However, as a Ghana supporter, strange as it may seem, I thought Ghana played their best football in the semi-final. Thought they had the right team selection and tactics in trying to use the wide players. They dominated possession and territory but failed due to poor finishing and poor final balls. Without meaning to sound too ungracious I didn't think Zambia looked all that good in this game and were rather lucky to win it. Should be an exciting World Cup qualifying group with Ghana and Zambia together.

  • Comment number 68.

    Am very disappointed with this article, the reseach was esuficient. we hav a studium in Zambia a very new modern one. It's not the first time we are beating the ivory coast, Senegal and Ghana, we have beaten them before and traditionally Zambia is a strong african team. And actually all the zambians had faith about winning the afcon, we hav and always had skill players. It does not that for any country to win a tourment u should hav players playing in Europe. This is a lesson to the world. We are proud of our lads we knew it was our time

  • Comment number 69.

    I must say congratulations. It's epically hard for a team like this to win a tournament, which served as 'the good side' of football amongst all the depressing stuff recently in UK football.

    Memories of Greece 2004, it's a major accomplishment, one of those rare events that's been some time coming, with all the usual candidates winning the major things recently.

    Here's hoping for more, Ukraine to win the Euros =?

  • Comment number 70.

    Since this great country was born 48 years ago we awaited this moment. Blessed are those who witnessed this moment in the history of Zambia.

    On Sunday when the Chipolopolo trotted onto the turf in Libreville nobody believed (except Zambians and few strong hearted pundits) Zambia could win the Africa Cup of Nations at the expense of the fancied and star-studded Ivory Coast. Not even the absurd CAF decision to give Senegalese Badara Diatta the match could sway destiny.

    Playing just metres away from the spot that swallowed 30 gallant Zambia men in 1993, the Chipolopolo played like 22 men on the field. History was made.

    The international media, unashamedly, described the quality of the football as underwhelming. I beg to differ the game had everything except goals in regulation time and extra-time. What is hard to take for most of them, (saw Mamadou Gaye?) is that they were wrong and couldn’t admit it. They were not man enough to stand up for the new Africa champions!

    This was an enthralling contest. Fast, furious and frenetic. The Chipolopolo showed skills that only Zambians know they possess. Commentators called it show-boating. How deluded can one be?!

    Ivory Coast had their chances including a soft penalty fluffed by the once dreaded Didier Drogba. He blamed the ground for the miss. Yaya Toure was only inches away in the first period and so was the sub Maxi Gradel with less than 5 minutes to play.

    In truth, Ivory Coast played well enough without being efficient. This was not by chance. Excellent Zambia coach Herve ‘’The Fox’’Renard had it all planned. Zambia dominated this match. Dignitaries that included the great Pele, FIFA president Sepp Blatter, UEFA boss Michel Platini, and some African presidents including Zambia founding President Dr Kenneth Kaunda and immediate past President Rupiah Bwezani Banda and others. Had it not been the grace of the post in injury time, the Elephants would have been slaughtered in added time when the Kotongo brothers, Chris and Felix, mesmerized.

    It was a worthy final and Zambia ran out deserved winners with a signature performance. The Chipolopolo produced one of the greatest display ever. The bravado to hold on and win the dramatic penalty shoot-out was amazing! Just unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable!

    The 1993 Gabon disaster can finally rest in peace.

  • Comment number 71.

    What a way to honor our fallen heroes and restore pride and belief to a great soccer nation that withered away a few years after that ill-fated disaster! As has already been alluded to,fate might have been the driving force behind the success but lets not take away the fact that prior to the tournament,the favorites were Senegal (never won the cup before),Ghana (splendid history but last won it in 1984) and an Ivory Coast side in its twilight (with a solitary win in 1992),hence the cup was up for grabs considering the fact that the traditional powerhouses of Egypt,Nigeria,Cameroon were missing including very good footballing nations like South Africa!

    Contrary to what many may believe,Zambia was a force to reckon with before the Air disaster comprising probably the best team it has ever produced and it soldiered on to finish 2nd in 1994 and 3rd in 1996 with a world ranking of 15th in 1996. From then on it was a downward slope for Zambian soccer owing to the lack of investment in the team due to the privatization of the Copper Mines in 1995 (which drive the country's economy) coupled with a sense of belief that Zambian soccer would never be revived back to its heights following the 1993 disaster with many losing interest in local soccer opting to focus on the EPL with Manchester Utd, Arsenal, Liverpool etc,the most supported!

    The last 15 years were the hardest in Zambian history for a team that had finished up as runners up twice and 3rd on three separate occasions and have always represented Southern Africa at the Afcon with South Africa waving the flag too from 1996 taking to mind that West and North Africa have always dominated the continent.

    Zambians have always believed that we only needed that stroke of luck to kick start our quest and write its name in the history books and this was the perfect platform with many star teams missing out together with the history attached to Gabon. You can compare Zambia to the way that Holland and Spain (before 2008) were,always underachievers and wondering when their time would come.

    This is a new dawn in Zambian soccer and now that the shackles have finally come off,belief has once again been bestowed in this soccer crazy country and the journey to once again putting Zambia on the map in Africa as in the '70s,'80s and early '90s has begun. Investment in Infrastructure and training facilities will now be a priority and support for the team is back in full swing countrywide coupled with the now finished ultra-modern stadium with two more to follow,it feels like destiny.....the hardest task now will be to maintain such standards but with the soccer history attached to this nation,its a task that we are looking forward to now that the bad memories of '93 that hampered our progress and success have finally been put to rest!

  • Comment number 72.


    This is further proof, as if any is required, that the much hyped EPL (and its much touted super heroes) is no more than a fast paced kick-about devoid of technique, skill, or any other redeeming attribute.

    This has been repeatedly proven at the Euros, and recent world cup tournaments, and will no doubt be in evidence again in Euro 2012!

  • Comment number 73.

    To all those who criticise the premier league based on the principle that the African based premier league players didn't perform well lack both intelligence and knowledge of the game, especially African football. I felt so strongly about this that I've even shelved my plans to head into work early...




    Personally I didnt enjoy the tournament. Without Nigeria (who are the most criminal when it comes to this tournament) its like watching the Euros without England

    btw I have plenty more to say

  • Comment number 74.

    and when I make reference to few and far between that is referring to the smaller nations

    I suggest many of you arm chair football manager fans brush up on you knowledge of african football and stick to criticising the luis suarez issues before opening your mouths to criticise something you know very little about

  • Comment number 75.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 76.

    to people who think Zambia was not going to win the cup, it becouse you don't follow african football or don't understand football at all.
    for exampe Egypt the former champion : how may of their player plays in europe?
    to win a football game requires team working together not individuals, that is the reason why in PL manchester United win, it is about team spirit and working together.
    The leason to learn from here is that even all of us like watching the premier leugue, this is a warning sign for the the English soccer team when facing other teams in europe and other competition that other league have quality individual and one should not be asking himself why the national team does not perfom well, the stars in Premier leugue they are definetly not the best in africa.
    by the way, south african league is very competitive and there are lot of african player who plays there becouse they din't have a chance to be marketted in europe like those few individulas who are in the premier league.
    thye next english team manger have to do his home work.

  • Comment number 77.

    Well Done Zambia. Zambia in the SUN. The Champs of Africa.

  • Comment number 78.

    WE have a stadium just to correct those who think we don't and that things are bad for this footballing nation mind you we have been building on this team for some time now, no wonder the result... so who are the so called Drogba and ba Cisse ayu Gyn? are looking at overated players or is it the Epl which is? you be the judge... for now i will go and soak, bask in the victory. at least we have done it "iyee Chipolopolo!!!!!

  • Comment number 79.

    I watched the final. Zambia always looked they could win the match and the trophy: they were dangerous in attack, many times first to the ball, played without fear and had an axis of players who could bring the ball in dangerous positions with ease.

    It looks as though a new dawn appeared in Zambian football.

  • Comment number 80.

    After watching Z win the ACON it only shows what unity in a team brings you. The England team are full of individuals who play for themselves to make a name for themselves. England should learn from this. Then maybe we can see a new dawn for England.

  • Comment number 81.

    9.At 12:38 14th Feb 2012, Money wrote:
    Too much corruption in footbol for me to think this is a cindarella success... if it smells like a fix, it probably is..
    1. And if you knew anything about Zambia, you would know we hardly have the kind of cash to buy a tournament!!!
    2.CAF would have nothng to gain from the result... even if they wanted the story for marketing.

    It would be nice if people for a change gave credit where its due. That was one great football showcase put up by Zambia and the Ivorian had no idea what came at them!! But then again you probably didnt even watch the game.

  • Comment number 82.

    Can't believe that anyone who actually watched the tournament could call Zambia rubbish, they played the best football and showed the most hunger to win. Yes they had a couple of fortunate moments like the penalty misses by Gyan and Drogba but any team that wins a major tournament needs that little bit of luck and they deserved it based on their performances. Once I heard the story of '93 and they continued to progress I was willing them to win and it was a fitting tribute to the players (and others) that they lost. Hopefully this can inspire other teams not to be negative and get out there and have a go.

  • Comment number 83.

    At 09:36 15th Feb 2012, malain wrote:
    To people who think Zambia was not going to win the cup, it’s because you don't follow African football or don't understand football at all.
    For example Egypt the former champion: how many of their player plays in Europe?
    To win a football game requires team working together not individuals, that is the reason why in PL Manchester United win, it is about team spirit and working together.
    The lesson to learn from here is that even all of us like watching the premier league, this is a warning sign for the English soccer team when facing other teams in Europe and other competition that other league have quality individual and one should not be asking himself why the national team does not perform well, the stars in Premier league they are definitely not the best in Africa...."


    Have to agree there.
    There is a lazy assumption that the players in Europe are Africa’s best. This massively overrates the efficiency of the scouting network – the ones in Europe by contrast are probably those with the best marketing engine – able to package them and provide visibility to the top clubs.

  • Comment number 84.

    Great article Piers!!
    However as a point of correction... "Lest we forget, the Chipolopolo don't even have a proper home after Lusaka's main stadium was declared unsafe a few years back..." is not true as the CHIPOLOPOLO DO HAVE A HOME, not in Lusaka but in the City of Ndola where a new Utra-modern facility called NDOLA STADIUM was contructed. The new stadium is so amazing it can fit anywhere in Europe! Google it!

  • Comment number 85.

    PS. Ndola Stadium was builty with the compliments of the CHINESE!

  • Comment number 86.

    Congratulations to Zambia! I'm very happy for them. What a lovely competition with african finest. This tournament demonstrates that football is a game of 11 players and not hype.

    On a sad though, I can't the ANC trophy itself the design is naff and looks very ugly. Africa is big continent and need a massive cup. Bring back the old one.

    The sight of too many foreign managers who can not understand or join in when their respective national anthem are sang is a total disgrace.

  • Comment number 87.

    What determines the term "big teams" in reference to Nigeria, Cameroun, Egypt? Is it the number of trophies they've won? If that, then granted. But if you are a "big team" and you don't deliver the goods when required then you lose the entitlement. The team that just beat you has become "big" to you. So, do you feel the tournament lacked it's sparkle just because Nigeria, Egypt, etc, were not there? GET OVER IT!! Those teams' problem started well before the AFCON finals started: THEY FAILED TO QUALIFY!! Don't load it on the "smaller" teams for your not enjoying the finals or for not seeing the "sparkle". In my eyes the BIG teams were at the tournament. Give respect. Move away from the inflated egos of nations devoid of commitment. As for Ghana, a question: Was the AFCON too small for Boateng as opposed to S. Africa 2010? If he's fit to play for AC Milan or indeed for Ghana at a World Cup, surely he should have been compelled to play for you at AFCON.

    Well done Zambia.

  • Comment number 88.

    Africans - and I am one - need to be a bit more humble in victory. When I read posts by Zambians about this triumph, I am left befuddled by how little humility is shown, so much that the massive support the Chipolopolo enjoyed from much of Africa is not acknowledged whatsoever.

    The same happened when Africa supported Ghana during the World Cup and the Black Stars fans repaid the gesture by rubbishing the teams of the very same Africans and saying they were the saviour of Africa.

    The same would have been the case in virtually every other African country - except to a lesser degree in north Africa.

    Many Africans supported your fairytale story Zambia - show them some respect.

  • Comment number 89.

    I sincerely feel sorry for all you people. You are clearly either deluded or simply stupid. How on earth can you claim this rubbish know as the "Africa Cup Of Nations" is even slightly good. Poor deluded fools.

  • Comment number 90.

    You're insecure,
    don't know what for
    You're turning heads when you walk through the do-o-or
    Don't need make-up - to cover up
    Being the way that you are is eno-o-ough
    Everyone else in the room can see it
    Everyone else but you
    Baby you light up my world like nobody else
    The way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed
    But when you smile at the ground, it ain't hard to tell
    You don't know
    Oh oh
    You don't know you're beautiful!
    If only you saw what I can see
    You'll understand why I want you so desperatley
    Right now I'm looking at you and I can't believe
    You don't know
    Oh oh
    You don't know you're beautiful!
    Oh oh
    That's what makes you beautiful!
    So girl come on, you got it wrong
    To prove I'm right I put it in a so-o-ong
    I don't know why, you're being shy
    And turn away when I look in to your eye eye eyes
    Everyone else in the room can see it
    Everyone else but yo-ou
    Baby you light up my world like nobody else
    The way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed
    But when you smile at the ground, it ain't hard to tell
    You don't know
    Oh oh
    You don't know you're beautiful!
    If only you saw what I can see
    You'll understand why I want you so desperatley
    Right now I'm looking at you and I can't believe
    You don't know
    Oh oh
    You don't know you're beautiful!
    Oh oh
    That's what makes you beautiful!
    Na na na na na na naaaa na na,
    Na na na na na na.
    Na na na na na na naaaa na na,
    Na na na na na na.
    Baby you light up my world like nobody else
    The way that you flip you're hair gets me overwhelmed
    But when you smile at the ground, it ain't hard to tell
    You don't know
    Oh oh
    You don't know you're beautiful!
    Baby you light up my world like nobody else
    The way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed
    But when you smile at the ground, it ain't hard to tell
    You don't know
    No Oh oh
    You don't know you're beautiful!
    If only you saw what I can see
    You'll understand why I want you so desperatley
    Right now I'm looking at you and I can't believe
    You don't know
    No Oh oh
    You don't know you're beautiful!
    No Oh oh
    You don't know you're beautiful!
    No Oh oh
    That's what makes you beautiful!

  • Comment number 91.

    "Africans - and I am one - need to be a bit more humble in victory. When I read posts by Zambians about this triumph, I am left befuddled by how little humility is shown, so much that the massive support the Chipolopolo enjoyed from much of Africa is not acknowledged whatsoever."

    I don't think the 12 million Zambians have posted all over the world. Getting carried away after a win is done everywhere on this planet. Zambians like any other people have individuals that are humble and those that are not. If you try to ask African brothers which nation has people that are always boasting and talking too much I have in my mind one nation and no one will tell you Zambia.

  • Comment number 92.

    Cypresrhicin, no need to get defensive because I didn't say not being humble in victory was a problem unique to Zambia. Just pointed out a value what I feel most of us this neck of the woods need to imbibe - You are so much larger when you show some humility in victory - remember that brov.

  • Comment number 93.

    Urufuo, got you.
    It's true the problem is not unique to Zambia and some humility is needed. Who doesn't know the wild celebrations that are done especially by African and African American players after scoring a goal, a touch down or a three pointer. Sometimes the celebrating players end up in the losing side because they even do that with the game still more than half time to go.
    I think a player leaving the pitch and running toward the fans with wild celebration after scoring a goal should be red carded for leaving the game without referee authorization. Why not reserving winning madness for after game parties?

  • Comment number 94.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 95.

    Indeed mighty Zambia had a date with destiny on Gabonese soil and they duly delivered thus giving a fitting tribute to 18 gallant ,fallen Zambian heroes.The young energetic Zambian side made sure & reminded them that they didnt die in vain on April 27,1993, off the Gabonese Atlantic coast.Bravo&Kudos to the astute ,meticulous French gaffer Herve Renard &King Kalusha Bwalya 4 his sound adminstration &foresight.Many,many congratulations,makorokoto,amhlope to Chipolopolo Copperbullets &the heroic people of Zambia !

  • Comment number 96.

    Zambia is NOT a small team as others are saying. It has been to the Africa Cup more than 13 times before. It beat Ivory Coast in 1994 when Ivory Coast was a defending African Champion 1-0, at AFCON a goal from Kenneth "Bubble" Malitoli, Zambia beat Ghana in 1996 AFCON by 1-0 to get a third place. Zambia has beaten other African Nations in both AFCON as well as in World Cup qualifiers and other matches. Mali was beaten by Zambia 4-0 at AFCON, Cameroon, Nigeria, Congo D R, Congo Brazaville, South Africa, Senegal, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco name them. At one time they have fallen to Zambia and at times Zambia has also fallen to them. Underrating Zambia by classifying it as "a small unknown team" is a huge understatement. Which country in Afrcia has qualified to the Nations Cup more than Zambia and has not won it, do please tell me.

    Zambia first attempt to grab the Africa Cup happened in 1974 in Cairo and lost it to Zaire, now Congo. The second was in Tunisia in 1994 when they lost it to Nigeria. Zambia has been third on a number of times before and been in quarter finals on a number of times. Kindly check your records before making some of these statements.

    On the region basis, Zambia has won the Southern Africa Cup (COSAFA) three times and has dominated the Under 20 (COSAFA). Zambia has been to the under 20 World Cup before. It played in the Olympics in 1988 representing Africa where they reached the quarter final after beating Italy 4-0.

    Zambia winning the Africa Cup has been long overdue.


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