Zambia legend Kalusha Bwalya says Monday’s quarter-final clash with Nigeria brings back “fond memories” of their 1994 Nations Cup final.
Having risen from the ashes of one of Africa’s worst sporting disasters, Zambia succumbed 2-1 after 90 emotion-laden minutes in Tunis.
“Even though we lost that game, I have fond memories because we had just come out of the Gabon tragedy,” Bwalya told BBC Sport in Lubango.
The final took place less than a year after a plane carrying the Zambian team to a World Cup qualifier in Senegal crashed into the sea off the coast Gabon.
Thirty lives were lost, including 18 players, in one of Africa’s worst sporting disasters.
But Bwalya escaped the tragedy as he was due to fly to Dakar direct from his base in the Netherlands.
“After losing the entire team, we started to rebuild and getting to the final was a great achievement,” said Bwalya, now president of the Football Association of Zambia.
“I still remember that match like it happened yesterday because of the circumstances surrounding it, and we also played against a very good Nigerian side.
“We played some of the best football in Zambia’s history in the second half of the match.”
Sixteen years ago, the Zambians were driven by a continental wave of public emotion and sympathy.
This time, though, circumstances are different and there are no striking similarities between the two matches.
“The only thing in common between the 1994 match and Monday’s game is myself and Daniel Amokachi (Nigeria’s current assistant coach), one of their stars then.
Bwalya said any talk of Zambia going into the match with revenge on their minds is not coming from him.
“If I was playing on Monday, I’d talk about revenge but these players were either toddlers or in nappies when we played in the 1994 final.
“I don’t want to put them under pressure by talking about revenge – this match has nothing to do with 1994.”
Courtesy of BBC