As the general says, sometimes it is needed to “turn our weakness into a strength” to rise up again and get our best.
Today we want to tell you the amazing story of Kalusha Bwalya, the Zambia’s football player survived to the terrible plane crash in Gabon in 1993, in which all the Zambia team lost its life, who promised he would have led the Zambia team to reach the first victory in the African Cup of Nations, then happened in 2012.
That day the Zambian squad, remembered as one of the Africa’s most talented team in history, was headed to to the Fifa World Cup Qualifier match against Senegal in Dakar. The plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean shortly after taking off from Libreville, Gabon. All the 25 passengers and five crew members passed away.
Only 3 person survived to the terrible accident, just because for several reasons they were not on board: namely, Bwalya, being one of these, has been survived as he traveled separately to Dakar to meet up with the squad from his base in Europe, where he played for Dutch club PSV Eindhoven.
And it was just in the emotional mark of respect moment at the graves when Kalusha Bwalya decided to dedicate his career and his life to the rebirth of Zambia team, in honor of the dramatic disappearance of his teammates.
Ended his career as one the best African football player of all the time, Bwalya managed to get a role in Zambian federation as the vice-president, taking matters into their own hands while the National team was living a difficult situation: in fact, it has just missed the qualification for the 2006 World Cup, finishing behind Togo and Senegal.
“The long plan began with the president Kalusha Bwalya when he was vice-president,” the captain Christopher Katongo explained. “He made a plan for four years. He kept the players we had to keep 70-80% of the players to see what we could do.”
The group was built from the Under-23 and Under-20 sides, taking account on great skills owned by few players. This was absolutely not a “golden generation”, as someone commented, but rather the squad was drawn predominantly taking guys from several African teams: five of the squad are based at home in Zambia, eight in South Africa and five Congo and the last two in Sudan.
The French Hervé Renard, current Morocco’s coach in 2018 World Cup, was designated as coach for this fresh project. Clearly popular with his players, he was also seen as a father-figure who is not afraid to impose discipline: his game philosophy consisted of team spirit as the most important value, not merely as if the players have to like each other, but also they have respected their coach enough immediately to subjugate themselves to his tactical demands.
“That began in 2006 and this is payback. In 2006 when he was the coach, we were eliminated in the first round. In 2008, the same thing, but he was the president and he insisted that we keep this team. Then in 2010, you saw what we did: we went to the next round and we lost to Nigeria.”
Bwalya offered him a second stint last year in 2010. As the same Renard said “He was criticized for giving me the second chance.”
But after a long and intensive road to the final match of the African Cup of Nations againg Ivory Coast, finally they achieved the greatest victory.
After that incredibile game, finished with the score of 8-7 in the penalty kicks, which saw Didier Drogba missing a penalty before the game was decided by a tense shootout, coach Herve Renard and his team were overjoyed.
“I want dedicate the victory to him, Kalusha Bwalya, because he gave me the opportunity to coach.”
“We wanted to honor the dead players and that strengthened us. The plane crashed in Gabon and we won the final in Gabon. It is a sign of destiny.”
And as all the fairy stories demonstrate, the real goals come from not just pure talent, rather from true motivation.
“I know we’re not the best,” as later Renard would have considered “but we have a strength and force that animated our team.“
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