I think all of those who watched the African Cup of Nations Final match between Ivory Coast and Zambia share my feeling: we were privileged to be allowed to participate in one of the more remarkable moments in modern sporting history.
It was one, of course, that went largely under the radar in the U.S.: it was not aired here, there was little coverage in our press, and if you tried to grab someone excitedly on the street and shout Zambia won! you probably would have gotten a blank stare — though of course it depends on what street.
All knew that any victory would mean suffering for the other team. When Zambia’s goalie Kennedy Mweene took and scored a penalty kick, the Ivory Coast goalie shook his hand afterwards.
Not all that glitters is Gold
And singing, prayers, looks upwards, accompanied each step of the ordeal.
There is plenty to worry about with regards to African Football, yet
Zambia’s victory was significant, among other things, because nearly
all the players on the team are based in Africa (notably in South
Africa) rather than in Europe.
It was a striking contrast to the Ivory Coast team, with a star-studded roster of names familiar to anyone who watches the English Premier League. The victory should raise new questions in the long running debate about what the best way for African nations to cultivate successful teams on the international level.
Bigger than football
The historicity of the moment, of course, had everything today with the those who haunted it: the 1993 Zambia football team, nearly all of whom had perished in a plane crash just off the coast of Gabon on their way to the Cup of Nations in that year.
Perhaps the most remarkable moment of the evening came afterwards,
Joseph Musonda, a 34-year-old veteran of the team who knew this
would likely be his last chance to play in an African Cup of Nations
final, was hurt in the opening minutes of the game. He had to watch, in
pain, powerless, from the sidelines for the next 2 hours.
But his teammates made sure he could ultimately celebrate a victory. And his coach, Herve Renard, made sure that he could be amongst them as they prayed in thanks, honoring the generations who had brought them to that historic moment.