DIRAMBA, THE NAME ENGRAVED IN THE HEART OF ZAMBIANS
The anguish, woe, distress and pain Jean-Fidele Diramba caused is still in the hearts of players and the fans especially those who followed Zambian football as far as the early 90’s.
The memories of the 1993 Gabon disaster was still fresh in the minds of Chipolopolo fans, the diplomatic relationship with Gabon had broken down as many believed that the Gabonese military brought down the plane which was heading to Dakar carrying the Zambia national team.
Six month after the plane crash, the Zambia National team reorganized themselves for the 1994 World Cup which was to be played in the United States of America.
Zambia was drawn in Group B with the likes of Morocco and Senegal for the qualifiers. Zambia beat Senegal 4-nil in the opening fixture then went on to draw 0-0 in the return leg. On match day three, the Chipolopolo beat Morocco 2-1 in Lusaka at Independence stadium.
The Copper Bullets where traveling to northern Africa to play the final game of the group stage against Morocco. Zambia was topping the group with 5 points and then followed by Morocco with 4 points.
Zambia only needed to avoid a loss in the final game of the group stage for them to make history. Diramba who is from Gabon was the man tasked to take charge of the match at the King Mohammed-V stadium in Casablanca.
Diramba showed high levels of inconsistencies in his decisions and him been from Gabon increased the tensions. The turning point of the match was when Kenneth ‘Bubble’ Malitoli found the quick feet of Gibby Mbasela and Mbasela negotiated his way past a Moroccan defender.
Bapwishe (finish them) as the term used to call on him to dribble a defender and was left with the goalkeeper to beat, another defender recovered and grabbed his shirt until he was brought down, Diramba just waved for play on. The player protested the decision but the referee stood firm to his decision. Morocco scored in the second half and that was enough to send them to USA for the World Cup.
Back home that didn’t go well with the fans, they marched to football house in dismay, the situation was escalating across the country. Fans asked the Football Associates to petition the matter but FIFA didn’t waste time on the petition.
Diramba became the symbol of pain among the fans and his name has been associated to anything bad and he will always be remembered as a man who denied us a World Cup appearance.
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