Last Sunday marked the 20th anniversary of the ill-fated plane crash that wiped out Zambia’s men’s national soccer team.
A total of 18 senior team members were among 30 people who died when the military plane they were travelling in crashed in the Atlantic Ocean. The plane went down soon after a refuelling stop in Gabon while on its way to Senegal, where the team was scheduled to play a 1994 World Cup qualifier.
Zambia Soccer Federation president, Kalusha Bwalya, was among those paying tribute to the air crash victims. A member of the national squad at the time, he was expected to fly to Senegal from the Netherlands, where he played for PSV Eindhoven.
“It seems like yesterday for some of us,” he said. “I am glad that I am still alive today to pay respects to talented, gallant and incredibly ambitious boys. We have learned a lot through the boys and for me it’s a reference point as a player and administrator.”
The Zambian government has yet to release an account of what caused the crash. While the bereaved families were compensated in 2002, they are still seeking answers to why the plane went down.
“The government has to do the right thing by releasing the report,” said Joyce Chabala whose husband, Edford, was the first choice goalkeeper.
Meantime, Ivory Coast is the African men’s Under-17 champions after defeating Nigeria 5-4 on penalty kicks. The game was tied 1-1 at the end of extra time.
In the third-place contest, Tunisia beat Morocco 11-10 on penalty kicks after they were tied 1-1 at the end of extra time.
All four teams will represent Africa at this year’s International Soccer Federation (FIFA) Under-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
Jamaica will host the Confederation of North, Central American & Caribbean Associations of Soccer (CONCACAF) women’s Under-17 championship in November. The top three teams will join 13 other countries, including hosts Costa Rica, at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup from March 15 to April 14, 2014.
“There stands to be broad-based benefits, as an event like this will bring tourists to our shores from all the competing nations within CONCACAF, including the USA, Canada and Mexico, so it’s a great opportunity for soccer and Jamaica,” said Jamaica Soccer Federation president, Horace Burrell.