Wednesday, April 17, 2024

22 years on, fondly remembered and never forgotten

Today marks 22 years since the Zambia Airforce (ZAF) plane carrying 18 Zambia national soccer team players, technical staff, passengers and crashed off the coast of Gabon.

With Africa, for the first time given three slots at the World Cup for the FIFA World Cup tournament, Zambia was on course to maiden appearance at the tournament having built a strong team from 1988 when the team under coach Samuel Ndhlovu had given a strong performance at the Olympics and moved on to win bronze at the 1990 Algiers Africa Cup finals and losing to Ivory Coast in the quarter finals at the 1992 AfCON finals.

Zambia started the 1994 World Cup qualifiers on a high with back-to-back wins against Tanzania (2 – 0), Namibia (0 – 4), and Tanzania (1 – 3) with only one loss away to Madagascar 20th December, 1992 which led to the firing of Samuel ‘Zoom’ Ndhlovu who was replaced by Godfrey Chitalu as coach and Alex Chola as assistant.

Chitalu and Chola’s reign at the helm of the Chipolopolo coaching job stated with a poor 0 – 0 draw at home against Zimbabwe in a Tunisia 1994 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier but the Chipolopolo were in fine form when they traveled to Mauritius two weeks later on the 25th of April where they walloped 3 – 0 via a Kelvin Mutale hattrick in the qualifiers for the same tournament.

As fate would hold it, this was the team’s last game.

The team returned home in jubilant mood and two days later were back on the road in the final round of 1994 World Cup qualifiers in which they were to play Senegal, a journey which ended in disaster after the

The Independent wrote about the Buffalo Plane –

Flying home on the Buffalo from a Cup of Nations qualifier from Mauritius, young forward Kelvin Mutale spoke to journalist Beauty Lupiya, telling her that even if the plane crashed they’d be safe because it would float. She told him not to be so morbid, but noticed how the plane struggled to gain altitude.

A week later, the players boarded the plane again for the game against Senegal. Kalusha and Charles Musonda of Anderlecht had missed the Mauritius game and so made their own way to west Africa. The plane’s captain, Feston M’hone, wanted to fly from Lusaka to Brazzaville, then on to Libreville and Abidjan before finally arriving in Dakar, the sheer number of refuelling stops suggesting how unsuitable a vehicle it was for the journey. There was, as so often, a delay, because as a military craft the Buffalo was denied permission to cross Congolese air space.

The decision was taken to fly directly to Libreville. The Buffalo landed and refuelled. According to the Gabonese minister of transport it had routine checks and then took off again. Two minutes later it exploded, killing all five crew and 25 passengers. Whether the Buffalo floated or not was irrelevant. Mutale, then 23, was one of those killed. Six members of the 1988 Olympic squad, including the goalkeeper Efford Chabala, died. So too did the 19-year-old Moses Chikwalakwala, Zambia’s Young Player of the Year in 1992.

Gone but never forgotten,its 22 years now.

Efford Chabala (goalkeeper) John Soko (defender) Whiteson Changwe (defender) Robert Watiyakeni (defender) Eston Mulenga (defender) Derby Makinka (midfielder) Moses Chikwalakwala (midfielder) Wisdom Mumba Chansa (midfielder/striker) Kelvin “Malaza” Mutale (striker) Timothy Mwitwa (striker) Numba Mwila (midfielder) Richard Mwanza (goalkeeper) Samuel Chomba (defender) Moses Masuwa (striker) Kenan Simambe (striker) Godfrey Kangwa (midfielder) Winter Mumba (defender) Patrick “Bomber” Banda (striker)

Godfrey “Ucar” Chitalu (coach) Alex Chola (assistant coach) Wilson Mtonga (doctor) Wilson Sakala

Michael Mwape (FAZ Chairman) Nelson Zimba (public servant) Joseph Bwalya Salim (journalist)

Colonel Fenton Mhone (pilot) Lt Colonel Victor Mubanga (pilot) Lt Colonel James Sachika (pilot) Warrant Officer Edward Nambote (fitter) Corporal Tomson Sakala (steward)

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  1. Its even more painful because we are no longer a dreaded team like they where all thanks to leadership at football house or the lack of it to be more precise

  2. So sad as if it happened only yesterday. In Ghana many of us wanted zambia to win can 1994 as a consalation. Paradox Ghana beat that zambia squad 1:0 in senegal can ’92.

  3. Ironically i realize zambia fa has not changed their travelling arramgements up to date. Still travelling in transits and refuelling and weak aircrafts etc. still going on in zambia

  4. Rest in Eternal peace FALLEN HEROES, never will we forget y’all, in your honour we where motivated to lift our first AFCON 2012.

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