Zambia’s Chipolopolo boys on Thursday made a stopover at the Beach Sabliere, site of the 1993 air disaster Thursday afternoon just hours after arriving in Gabon ahead of Sunday’s Africa Cup of Nations final against Cote d’Ivoire in Libreville.
A total of 30 players, crew and officials lost their lives off the coast of Gabon on April 27, 19 years ago on their away to Dakar to play Senegal in a 1994 World Cup qualifier.
“God has given us this opportunity to be here and now we must win this Africa Cup of Nations for the Zambia national team from 1993,”Zambia coach Herve Renard said.
The team laid wreaths on the beach and sung solemn hymns in the midst of crashing waves in a brief memorial ceremony that was also attended by Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) president Kalusha Bwalya.
“In 1993, the Chipolopolo came here to fulfill a promise. They did not succeed, but instead gave up their lives for a gallant cause – the dream to bring glory to our Country, mother Zambia,”Kalusha said.
“It is the same cause that brings us here today, the only difference is that we are alive and our former team mates are no longer here .
“It is for this reason that I say here today on behalf of all of us involved in Zambian Football.”
Meanwhile, Zambia landed in Libreville at 10:30 hours local time after taking a 30-minute flight from Bata in neighbouring Equatorial Guinea that has been their base at the Africa Cup since January 21.
The team were welcomed in a colourful ceremony at the Leon M’ba Airport in Libreville by traditional dancers who picked out Rainford Kalaba, Christopher Katongo and coach Herve Renard from the entourage.
The trio was bestowed with traditional single-feathered skull caps before releasing them to board the team bus taking them to their hotel.
Meanwhile, Ivory Coast say they have learnt from “mistakes” and will not underestimate Zambia in Sunday’s Africa Cup of Nations final. They say they have the weapons to bring down the Chipolopolo.
“It’s been a really difficult three weeks,” Toure told BBC Sport.
“We are really happy, but now there is another game against Zambia.
They are a really good team and it’s going to be a very tough game.
“It means a lot to our country. The people there have been suffering so much.
“The only thing that brings them together is the national team and we try to do as well as we can.
“We are used to that pressure. We’ve learnt from all the mistakes we’ve made in the past, this has been helping us.
“On Sunday we need to prove we have the experience and that all the bad times we’ve had make us improve. That’s the most important thing.”
Kalou, meanwhile, paid tribute to Gervinho, who scored the winner against Mali after an impressive run from the halfway line.
“It was a great goal, a solo goal, finished with a classic inside foot,” Kalou said.
“We’ve been working hard the last 18 months to get to that level.
“It’s a moment we want to enjoy. Then we have to focus again for the final on Sunday.
“It’s going to be a very difficult game. We are 90 minutes from our goal and I think that’s not a chance to miss.
“The spirit I have, the spirit we all have, is to fight together as a team.. “With the strikers we have, we can score at any moment so the most important thing is to organise ourselves and then we know Gervinho, Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure or myself can make the difference.”
Kalou added that a change in their tactics, introduced by head coach Francois Zahoui, has played a big part in their success.
“We are more organised, we are not conceding goals, that’s the basis of football,” he said.