With the final today, here is my latest Africa Cup of Nations 2012 column for FourFourTwo.com on Zambia and their remarkable journey to the final:
Together they walked slowly to the coastline, singing in unison. Once there, and despite the entourage, a gentle ocean breeze and the swish of waves kissing sand were the only sounds. A team, representing a nation, stood in silence.
Those present laid flowers. A few said prayers, many shed tears. The coach Herve Renard stood solemnly behind his players and observed, a mix of pride, sorrow and conviction in his eyes. Kalusha Bwalya, the country’s greatest ever player, laid a wreath. Zambia united in grief and remembrance.
After staying in Equatorial Guinea for the entire Africa Cup of Nations to date there was only one way Zambia could return to the scene of one of the worst disasters in African football history – the 1993 air disaster that took the lives of 30 people including members of Zambia’s greatest football team. As finalists. So they did, upsetting Ghana to win the semi-final 1-0 thanks to a goal from Emmanuel Mayuka. A return to Gabon was secured.
The team travelled to Libreville and first port of call was the Beach Sablière, site of the 1993 air disaster that cost 30 players, crew and officials their lives off the coast of Gabon on April 27, on their way to Dakar to play Senegal in a 1994 World Cup qualifier.