Southern African News Features                                           SANF 12 No 5, February 2012

Itís southern Africaís time as Zambia lifts AFCON trophy

by Joseph Ngwawi

Zambia has etched its name in the history books after becoming only the third southern African country to lift the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) trophy in the tournamentís 55-year history.

The Chipolopolo, as the Zambian national team is affectionately known by its fans, beat tournament favourites Ivory Coast 8-7 in a penalty shootout to win the AFCON for the first time.

The teams failed to score in 120 minutes of play in the final in Libreville, Gabon. Zambia becomes the third Southern African Development Community (SADC) country to win the biennial continental championship since the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1968 and 1974, and South Africa in 1996.

Spurred on by a strong belief that destiny had brought them to Gabon, the Zambians showed no concern for the reputation of their highly fancied Ivorian opponents and dedicated their victory to their heroes who perished in a plane crash in Gabon while on their way to play Senegal in a World Cup qualifier in 1993.

The victory came 19 years after 18 members of the Zambian team died in a plane crash close to where the final was played in the Gabonese capital.

Current team members said during their run to the championship that they were motivated by the memory of the 1993 squad.

Zambia is one of the most successful SADC countries in football terms after having taken part in most AFCON finals. Zambia has been to the finals for a record 15 times.

Zambiaís previous best moments in the continental tournament came in 1974 and 1994 when the country was losing finalists.

Against all odds, the Zambian Football Association managed to assemble a strong team for the 1994 finals following the loss of the entire team in an air crash.

Zambian Football Association chairperson Kalusha Bwalya captained the trailblazing 1994 team.

The first AFCON took place in Khartoum, Sudan in 1957 and the inaugural tournament was won by Egypt. Egypt has gone on to win the trophy six times, leading North Africa to a record 10 wins.

West Africa is the most successful region having won the trophy seven times, with Ghana being crowned champions four times since 1957.

Following Zambiaís victory, southern Africa has now won the tournament four times while Central Africa has also taken the trophy four times through Cameroon victories. The only East African side to ever win the AFCON was Ethiopia in 1962.

Southern Africa will be hoping to retain the trophy when South Africa hosts the next AFCON tournament in 2013.

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