Zambians party over Africa Nations Cup victory

Zambian fans with painted faces celebrate their victory over Ivory Coast
Image caption The revelling went on all night across the country

There is no sign of the party dying any time soon in Zambia where there is is a sea of green, red, orange and black as people take an impromptu day off work to celebrate the country's first ever Africa Cup of Nations victory.

The win is particularly poignant because 19 years ago in April Zambia lost their entire team after a plane crash close to the venue of the final in Libreville.

There was a belief that the spirits of the 18 dead players were with the current squad, who are nicknamed Chipolopolo (the Copper Bullets).

Thousands have been out rejoicing since the final whistle late on Sunday night of a dramatic penalty shoot-out in which the young, unknown - and underrated - Zambians held their nerve and beat the favourites Ivory Coast.

People of all ages and from all walks of life have been honking their car horns, dancing and drinking on the rain-soaked streets of the capital, Lusaka, and in other cities and villages around the country, in what is being described as the best night in Zambia's sporting history.

Walking to the airport

"Nobody is at work, I've been out and about and it's a great joy to be here, soaking up the atmosphere," a resident of the capital, Felly Nkweto, told the BBC.

Another fan, Gift Mumba, said: "Monday is a holiday whether the government likes it or not."

Image caption The Chipolopolo victory was inspired by the 1993 plane crash

Bwalya Chizu said the day is so special because "finally what we have been waiting for has actually arrived".

"Congratulations to us for the support we gave them," he said, before joining hundreds of other Lusaka residents who decided they were going to walk to the airport to give a heroes' welcome home to the team - due back from Gabon on Monday afternoon.

"Even if I am soaked and it takes me a day to reach the airport, it's fine," Mr Chizu said.

Others - not quite ecstatic enough or able to walk the 25km (15 miles) from the centre of town - have lined the route to the airport, decked out in flags, shirts made out of the local chitenge material and with their faces painted in Zambia's national colours.

The noise of vuvuzelas can be heard in every corner in the capital city.

'Almost passed out'

The final was a night of high drama - the atmosphere was electric, with people sitting on the edges of their seats as the game went to a penalty shoot-out.

After 14 kicks were converted, Kolo Toure and Gervinho of Ivory Coast failed to find the target for the Elephants as Zambia's Rainford Kalaba also hit wide.

One fan thought she was going to pass out from tension during the penalties.

Image caption Not many Zambians have gone to work and most are dressed in the national colours

"I cannot believe we have won," Clare said.

"The Chipolopolo boys showed true determination and grit - and [Kennedy] Mweene the goalkeeper is a super star," she added.

"It was breathtaking - I can't describe how I felt as Ivory Coast missed a penalty, then we missed, and then they missed again," a man watching in Lusaka's Chilenje area said.

Zambia's Stophila Sunzu hit the winner to complete an amazing 8-7 victory and send the country into an instant frenzy.

En route to the final, when team beat the likes of Senegal and Ghana, the current team had spoken of the strength they had gained in remembering that tragedy.

"The moment [Didier] Drogba missed the penalty during normal time, we felt it was a sign that the cup was coming home," one fan said.

"It was fantastic, we wanted to win so much but we didn't expect it because Ivory Coast is number one in Africa - but we did deserve it," he added.

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