Zambian football remembers Gabon plane crash that wiped out a golden generation

April 26 – Zambian football is to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the plane crash that wiped out almost of all the national team, at the time viewed as the country’s golden generation of players.

Eighteen footballers were among 30 people killed when a Zambian air force plane crashed off the coast of Gabon, shortly after a refuelling stop on a journey to Dakar, where Zambia were to play a World Cup qualifying match against Senegal.

Engine failure after take-off from Libreville caused the plane to crash into the sea, killing all on board including the coaches, support staff and crew.

Kalusha Bwalya was one of four players due to fly from bases in Europe rather than on the plane from Lusaka. Two months later, he led a brand new team to victory in a World Cup qualifier against Morocco.

A year after the crash, Zambia were surprise finalists at the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia, losing 2-1 to Nigeria. A generation later, they finally won the title – ironically in Gabon, site of the fateful crash.

“The plane crashed in Gabon and we won the final in Gabon. It is a sign of destiny,” then coach Herve Renard said at the time.

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