Euphoria engulfs Zambia after AFCON triumph

February 13th, 2012 - 8:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Lusaka, Feb 13 (IANS) Euphoria and celebration engulfed Zambia after the country’s national football team won its maiden Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title following a pulsating final match against pre-tournament favourites Cote d’Ivoire.

After the two teams failed to break the jinx in 120 minutes of play at the Stade de I’Amitie in Libreville, Gabon, the winner had to be decided through penalties and it were Zambia who emerged victorious in the early hours of Monday after scoring eight goals against Cote d’Ivoire’s 7.

Zambians, clad in the country’s national colours, flooded the roads immediately after defender Stopilla Sunzu scored the deciding penalty, singing solidarity songs while vehicles hooted in joyous celebrations for the country’s first-ever AFCON victory.

People celebrated in all manner of styles such as dancing, praying, rolling on the mud and even undressing while major roads were blocked as fans took over the roads in ecstasy of celebrations.

“I knew that we will do it because we had to honour our brothers who died off the coast of Libreville in Gabon,” one soccer fan said.

Another soccer fan, Moses Mbewe, said the win is memorable for the country and should act as a uniting factor for the country’s politicians.

“Four months ago, we had elections and power was handed smoothly without any violence and now this win should unite us as a country,” he said.

Another soccer fan jokingly said: “we have killed the elephant (as the Cote d’Ivoire team is fondly called) with eight bullets and we will sit down to enjoy the meat”.

Zambia’s first president Kenneth Kaunda and the immediate past-president Rupiah Banda were among hundreds of soccer fans who had flown to Gabon to cheer the team.

The victory is memorable for the southern African nation as it comes 19 years after Zambia lost 18 of its best players when the plane they were travelling in burst into flames and plunged into the Atlantic Ocean April 28, 1993.

Prior to the 2012 AFCON final, the national soccer team had vowed that they would do everything possible to ensure that they win the cup in honour of the departed colleagues.

The government has since released a programme to receive the team as it comes from Gabon this afternoon, Xinhua reports.

According to the program released by the Ministry of Sports, the national soccer team will arrive at 12:00 hours local time and a victory concert has been planned for the ShowGrounds in Lusaka, the Zambian capital where the team will be joined by senior government leaders, diplomats and soccer fans in celebrating the sweat victory.

Zambia was ranked as outsiders to win the tournament but the Herve Renard coached team has shocked the African continent and soccer pundits by their splendid performance. In the first game, the Chipolopolo (the Bullets), as the team is fondly called, caused one of the tournament’s shocks by beating the much-fancied Senegal 2-1 before drawing 2-2 with Sudan and humbling co-hosts Equatorial Guinea 1-0 to storm the quarter-finals.

The team later humiliated Sudan 3-0 in the quarter-finals before humbling another tournament favourite Ghana 1-0 in the semis.

Zambia has now participated 15 times at the Africa Cup competition and the other times they came closer to lifting the trophy was in 1974 and 1994 when they reached the finals.

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