Africa Cup of Nations champions Zambia dedicate victory to former player Kalusha Bwalya
Bwalya escaped 1993 plane crash that killed 30 people including 18 Zambian players
Zambia beat Ivory Coast in penalty shootout to claim first ever Cup of Nations title Sunday
Zambia coach Herve Renard has dedicated the country’s first Africa Cup of Nations title to former player Kalusha Bwalya, who escaped a plane crash that killed the squad of 1993.
Bwalya, regarded as one of Zambia’s greatest players, is also head of the country’s soccer federation. He was in the Gabonese capital Libreville to see the Copper Bullets beat Ivory Coast 8-7 on penalties in Sunday’s final.
It was in the same city 19 years ago that Zambia’s coach and 18 players were killed in a plane crash on their way to Senegal for a World Cup qualifying match.
Bwalya survived as he traveled to Dakar to meet up with the squad from his base in Europe, where he played for Dutch club PSV Eindhoven.
Renard was Zambia coach between 2008 and 2010 before leaving to coach Angola, but Bwalya offered him a second stint last year.
“He is the best Zambian player of the last century and he escaped the plane crash,” Renard was quoted as saying on the Confederation of Africa’s official website.
“He was criticized for giving me the second chance. I dedicate the victory to him because he gave me the opportunity to coach.
“We wanted to honor the dead players and that strengthened us. Our first game was against Senegal and the team was on its way to Senegal for a match when the plane crashed.
“The plane crashed in Gabon and we won the final in Gabon. It is a sign of destiny.”
In a dramatic final, Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba missed a penalty before the game was decided by a tense shootout, with Stoppila Sunzu striking the decisive blow.
Zambia striker Collins Mbesuma added: “I also believe the departed Zambian team of 1993 was with us in this final match.
“When Drogba missed the penalty l just knew it that it was our night, the departed were making sure the Ivorians would not score.”
The Zambian squad flew back to the country’s capital Lusaka on Monday to be greeted by thousands of cheering fans.