Copper Bullets’ shooting stars take gold…

16 02 2012

It was a sign of destiny, written in the sky. There was a force with us. I think God has helped us and given us strength.’

Herve Renard (Zambia National Football  Coach)

 

For me the sporting achievement of last weekend goes to Zambia, winners, for the first time, of the African Cup of Nations.

Unfortunately I didn’t see the game, but I was delighted to hear ‘the Copper Bullets’ had gunned down ‘the Elephants’, tournament favourites  Ivory Coast, in a dramatic penalty shoot-out – eventually winning 8-7.  

There’s was a poignant victory, dedicated to the fallen squad of 1993, eighteen players, two coaches, and a Zambian FA president, wiped out when the team’s plane crashed into the sea, shortly after a refueling stop.  

They had been en route to a World Cup qualifying fixture with Senegal when the plane went down off Gabon. As fate would have it, ‘Chipolopolo’ (the Copper Bullets), played Senegal in their opening game of CAN 2012, and Sunday night’s final was in Libreville, Gabon.        

Despite being very much under-dogs, but having already beaten a strong Ghana ‘Black Stars’ side in the semi-final, Zambia’s French coach, Herve Renard, told his players he believed the country’s footballing destiny was ‘written in the sky’.

Zambia showed a steely determination, more than matching a team boasting countless English Premier League and European stars, and holding out for a goalless draw after 120 minutes, during which Chelsea’s Didier Drogba smashed an Ivory Coast penalty opportunity over the bar.

In the tense penalty shoot-out, as a nation held its breath, Kolo Toure of Manchester City and Arsenal’s Gervinho, both blew it for ‘the Elephants’, leaving the little known Stoppila Sunzu, currently playing in the Democratic Congo Republic, to step up with great composure and fire the final golden bullet into the top corner of the net.

Having spent time in football loving Zambia, and having witnessed, at first hand, the ability of the people to party, I know the celebrations will have been something to behold.

During my time in Livingstone, the Copper Bullets came to town and I squeezed into the ‘Muramba Stadium’, with the excited locals, to watch them play a friendly, ‘Aids Awareness’, game against the Southern Province side. (Click the link to read more…)

What a lift this CAN 2012 triumph will give to the people of Zambia – I couldn’t be more delighted for them.   

 

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