The Triumph Of Human Spirit Wins African Cup Of Nations

Extraordinary is an overused word but Zambia’s victory in the final of the African Cup Of Nations was indeed extraordinary.

This was the ultimate underdog story with Zambia ranked 71st in the world rankings, taking on the hot favourites, Ivory Coast, with their big names like Chelsea’s Drogba and Arsenal’s Gervinho.

Against all the odds and after an intense 120 minutes of fast football, Zambia won it 8-7 with a dramatic penalty shoot out. The Zambians watched the final few penalties on their knees with arms around each other.

Zambia won its first African Cup Of Nations in a packed Stade de l’Amitie just a few km from where it suffered its worst sports tragedy when its national team was, literally, destroyed 19 years ago in a tragic plane crash killing 25 players and staff along with many more Gabonese. This was Zambia’s first game in Libreville since that ill-fated flight.

This triumph of the human spirit, actually won over the host country, Gabon, and its fans who could have been hostile because of bad feelings between the two countries regarding that fatal crash in 1993. Instead, the Gabonese fans chanted “Chipolopolo,” (the Zambian team’s nickname).

Zambian’s love their football and none more than their Federation President (and arguably their greatest former footballer) Kalusha Bwalya (who escaped the tragic 1993 air crash as he travelled independently from his club, PSV Eindhoven). When Kalusha stepped onto the running track after the final penalty, every green-shirted player sprinted over to hug him. Emotions were running high when he lifted the trophy in one hand ‘almost defiantly’.

Zambian goalkeeper Mweene said afterwards “The team spirit and the brotherhood in the team was the key for us”.

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7 Responses to The Triumph Of Human Spirit Wins African Cup Of Nations

  1. Ken Mc Cue February 14, 2012 at 10:35 pm #

    The joy of the Zambian win extended all the way to Dublin in the Irish Republic where Chipolopolo fans danced with their Ivorian friends in the Dalymount Park clubhouse, home of Bohemians FC.
    Government Minister of State for Development Joe Costello TD was also there to enjoy the African flavoured football and the atmosphere. With a new White Paper on Overseas Trade Partnerships imminent, it was obvious that football in particular, and sport in general, will play a strong role in opening up social capital exchanges through Sport Aid from Africa, the Sport against Racism Ireland solidarity programme that has over 40 coaches from the African Diaspora (including Zambians and Ivorians) working in disadvantaged areas on the island of Ireland.

  2. Ze February 15, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

    Absolutely fantastic! One could sense and see the euphoria from the stadium.
    The Zambian victory is a tribute to the underdog and an accolade to African football.

  3. David February 16, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    What a triumph for Zambia, and a great day to show that even from the most tragic events a team and a country can recover and rebuild to win.

  4. prsmith February 16, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    Wow Ken – this is fantastic stuff.Zambian Chipolopolo fans danced with their Ivorian friends in the Dalymount Park clubhouse, home of Bohemians FC. Love it!
    40 coaches from the African Diaspora (including Zambians and Ivorians) working in disadvantaged areas on the island of Ireland. Extraordinary stuff.
    Thx also Ze & David – it is indeed an example to all school kids – to never ever give up!

  5. Lubala Chibwe February 16, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

    Great piece, although Ivory Coast are ranked 53 places above Zambia and they’re in the top 20 best teams in the world! Team spirit alone was not enough for Zambia to beat them, they played on equal terms with Ivory Coast and it was only penalties that eventually separated the two. The 1993 tragedy provided an added poignancy to the match, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that it was skill and ability that won them the trophy. A destined trophy, maybe. A trophy they never stopped working hard for, absolutely!

  6. Towa Beer February 16, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

    I’ve never been more proud of my country and the amazing spirit of all it’s people. Zambia has been devastated by many tragedies in the past and this tournament lifted everyone and showed the world how passionate we are. Especially passionate about football! A nation of us screamed with every goal, “chipolo polo e-yeah!” A great victory.

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    […] in the African Cup of Nations 2012. Paul Smith tells us the story on a Sportsmanship perspective: The triumph of human spirit wins African Cup of Nations. Extraordinary is an overused word but Zambia’s victory in the final of the African Cup Of […]

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