MATHEWS NDANDULA SCORES of soccer lovers yesterday tuned up to celebrate the lives of the Zambia National team that perished in the Gabon Air Disaster. Leading the delegates at Lusaka’s Heroes Acre was Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) president Andrew Kamanga who said it’s never easy making the journey to the Heroes Acre every year. “It is a journey that brings back memories of our fallen heroes.
Their lives remain a symbol of the greatest sacrifice one can ever make for their country. That is why today we turn up to celebrate their lives. We are grateful for the memories and accomplishments that they gave to their country. Today as we gather, we should always strive to honour them with glory. They paved the way for football glory in this country.
Some of them dazzled the World at the 1988 Seoul Olympics where Zambia reached the quarterfinals and emerged third at the 1990 Africa Cup of Nations,” Kamanga said. “The team also made the quarterfinal stage of the 1992 Africa Cup of Nations in Senegal. It was almost a given that they were going to be at the 1994 USA FIFA World Cup. That dream was cut short, and we remain hopeful that we shall honor their memory with World Cup qualification.
Encouragingly, the first step of Africa Cup of Nations glory was attained in 2012 and now we must fight to qualify to Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup as a befitting tribute to our fallen heroes,” he said. “Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup commence in June and we expect that the Chipolopolo will remember these heroes as they undertake that mission.
We have no doubt that the team will also be inspired by a sense of history and pride as they undertake that mission. “To the families, we always encouraged that you have always been here for the past 28 years to pay homage to these heroes that meant everything to you. Let us continue to celebrate their lives as that is how they would have loved to be remembered.
Despite government guiding that an official event will be held every five years, we have not stopped converging every year to honour our heroes. The next official function will be held in 2023 and plans are already underway to have some activities that will mark the occasion.” Tamara Mtonga representing the families thanked the FAZ president for facilitating the event despite Government saying the memorial will be held every after five years.
And Kennedy ‘Bubble’ Malitoli, who played with the demised team, but was not selected for that assignment said he feels as if the tragedy had happened today. “It’s still fresh! I feel the same way I felt when I received the news saying the plane has crashed,” the former goal poacher said. “It’s just one of those days when you will sorry more especially when am here where the players are laying, the people I played with it’s so sad the memories are so fresh we can only celebrate their lives they did their part, the wish of the players was to go to the world cup and I feel the players who are playing currently will fitful their dream,” said Malitoli. And FAZ Communications Manager Sydney Mungala shared that he was nine-yearsold when the news broke that the Zambia national soccer team had perished.
“I was aged nine when the news broke and by then I was staying in Choma and was privileged to watch the team during the Africa Cup tournament in 1992 I think that was in Senegal, so that brings the memories of the players, “I also use to have the newspaper cutting of players and the most memo one is of Godfrey Chitalu the 107 goals it use to come like a quiz.” “We didn’t believe the person who came from town centre in Choma, where I was staying just a few metres away, was going round telling people that the National team has crashed we didn’t believe him.
We heard it on the news much later in the evening,” said Mungala. The Zambia Air Force plane carrying the Zambia national soccer team crashed off the coast of Gabon as they were on their way to play Senegal in the World Cup qualifier match in 1993