Chipolopolo’s 2012 success was ‘written in the sky’

2012-12-30 10:00

Zambia started 2012 on a high and ended even higher.

They were named Africa’s national football Team of the Year and their coach, Herve Renard, was named Coach of the Year.

It was also befitting for Zambia captain Christopher Katongo to be named BBC’s Footballer of the Year for 2012.

The award would have been spit in the face of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) after it overlooked the Chipolopolo captain in its three finalists for the continent’s Footballer of the Year.

The reason for this could be that Katongo does not come from West Africa, or perhaps he does not play in a top European club?

The year 2012 has, however, been a great one for Katongo. He led Chipolopolo to a historic and emotional Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) triumph in February when they beat a star-studded Ivory Coast.

But instead of CAF recognising him for a job well done, it decided to short-list Alex Song, Yaya Touré and Didier Drogba, all of whom are from West Africa. Touré was crowned Africa’s best last week at an event held in Accra, Ghana.

Granted, Drogba won his former club Chelsea the Uefa Champions League in May and Touré helped Manchester City lift their first Premiership title in 43 years.

But they both lost to Katongo’s Chipolopolo in the Afcon finals.

The less said about Song the better. His Cameroon national team didn’t even qualify for the continental showpiece and his former Premiership side, Arsenal, did not win anything too.

Former Jomo Cosmos striker Katongo was undoubtedly one of Zambia’s valuable assets at Afcon as he went on to net three goals in six matches on their way to defeating The Elephants 8-7 on penalties in the final.

It was a bittersweet victory in the Gabon capital of Libreville, where a Zambian military plane crashed into the ocean soon after takeoff in 1993, killing all 25 players and officials on board.

After clinching the trophy, the Zambian team held up banners remembering their fallen heroes.

During post-match interviews, Renard said his team’s defeat of Ivory Coast, led by Drogba, was “written in the sky”.

“We know what we wanted to honour this evening. It was a sign of destiny, written in the sky. There was a force with us.

I think God has helped us and given us strength,” the Frenchman said after the match.

The victory served as the best tribute to the fallen 1993 heroes, but it won’t make those sad 1993 memories less painful.

But one more happier person was Football Association of Zambia president Kalusha Bwalya, the only survivor of the ill-fated 1993 national team. He was not part of the travelling contingent.

Now the challenge for Chipolopolo is to repeat the performance at next month’s tournament here in South Africa, so as to book a place at Fifa’s Confederations Cup in Brazil in June.

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