THE Day, April 28, will forever remain an important date in the history of Zambia, especially in the sports fraternity.
This dark day will always be remembered as when Zambia lost the cream of the national team.
Thirty years ago today but memories remain fresh for the gallant Zambia football team players and officials that perished off the coast of Gabon on their way to a FIFA 1998 World Cup qualifier against Senegal.
A dozen of the fallen heroes were a year before the tragedy at the 1992 AFCON where the team reached the quarterfinals.
Secondly, this is also the birth date of the late first Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda and it is now a national holiday since his passing.
Dr Kaunda is not only remembered as one of the last of the generation of African leaders who fought against colonialism but also for his love of sport.
President Kaunda was honoured to have been alive and was befitting on hand in Libreville when the Chipolopolo stunned the continent to win the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title in Gabon.
Thus, today represents a day for all sportsmen and women, coaches and administrators to seriously reflect on what they have done towards performing well and bringing accolades in honour of these gallant men of the soil.
For our men’s football team, popularly known as the Chipolopolo, the onus still remains on them to achieve the greatest feat this team wanted to attain-qualification to the World Cup.
The country would always remain indebted to the 2012 AFCON stars for honouring one wish of the fallen heroes by winning the Africa Cup but now the World Cup remains a non-negotiable task.
While qualification to the AFCON had become a far-fetched dream since the last appearance in 2015, the coming in of Avram Grant looks like that jinx would be broken as Zambia only needs a point to make a return to the continental showpiece.
But Zambians want something different this time around and that is World Cup qualification and this was also the task the 1993 heroes and President Kaunda wanted achieved.
So the onus is on the current crop of players to emulate the sacrifices that the fallen heroes made and always die-a-little for the country.
Qualification formats for the World Cup keep changing with Africa’s number increasing to five but the team still missed out.
It is every fan’s hope that this dream would not die an eternal death but one day the Chipolopolo will rise above their adversaries and achieve this long dream of playing at the World Cup to honour the legacy of 1993.
Overall, all sports disciplines have a big role in ensuring that athletes shine at various international events as a way of honouring President Kaunda whose love for sports was immeasurable.
Sports associations should take advantage of the current government support that has seen all disciplines supported no matter how minor the sport is. From Football to Draughts, netball, pool, chess etc have enjoyed a good share of the government support.
But that support should be reciprocated by good results, results that will always honour our gallant heroes.
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