Zambia keeps its promise to honor crash victims of 1993

Zambia keeps its promise to honor crash victims of 1993

LIBREVILLE - Agence France-Presse
Zambia keeps its promise to honor crash victims of 1993

This ile photo from April 28, 1993, shows divers carrying a body retrieved from the plane that crashed after takeoff from Libreville with Zambian players on board. AFP photo

When Zambia arrived in Libreville yesterday, it meant they kept a promise they have made before the competition: To honor the dead from the 1993 air crash that wiped out the national team off the coast of Gabon.

Over three weeks ago Zambia keeper Kennedy Mweene told AFP: “The best way to honor the Zambian stars is by doing well at this Africa Cup of Nations to put the souls of our fallen heroes to rest.”

That was precisely what he and the rest of the Copper Bullets was doing after securing their place in the Nations Cup climax.

Zambia kept its date with the fallen comrades on the ill-fated Zambian Air Force flight when stunning Ghana 1-0 in the Feb. 8 semifinal in Bata in Equatorial Guinea.

And in the post-match euphoria coach Herve Renard pledged that immediately on arrival in Libreville he and his squad would be paying homage to those who perished when their plane ditched into the Atlantic 500 meters off the Gabonese capital.

“It was written in the stars that we had to return to Gabon in order to honor the memories of the national side wiped out in 1993,” said Renard. “Twelve million Zambians wanted us to go the whole way to Libreville. As soon as we arrive in Libreville, we will go to the spot where the plane crashed, not far from the stadium.”

The plane was en route to a 1994 World Cup qualifier in Senegal. All 30 people, 25 passengers and five crew, on board died.

Only former African Footballer of the Year Kalusha Bwalya avoided the tragedy because he was based in the Netherlands with PSV and traveled directly from Europe. “Most of us were in primary school when the crash happened, but Kalusha remembers it vividly and has encouraged us to keep those who perished in our minds whenever we fight for our country,” Mweene told.