20th July 2023
Copper Queens remember the Fallen Heroes ahead of FIFA Womens World Cup debut
As the Copper Queens of Zambia approach their opening game at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, becoming the first ever Zambian senior national team to play at the World Cup, national team striker Racheal Kundananji remembers the great Chipolopolo that perished in a horrific air crash in 1993.
The fateful day of the 27th of April 1993 will always be remembered as one of the darkest days in African football.
Chipolopolo were on their way to play Senegal in Dakar, in the opening 1994 FIFA World Cup second-round qualifiers.
As the Copper Queens prepare to make history, striker Kundananji recalls the significance of the 1993 fallen heroes to Zambian football.
"I can say it means a lot to me because whenever we here about this story it's more emotional. You know, they lost their lives while their dreams never came true. It was so emotional for the families and Zambia also.
As a nation we lost people who were supposed to be the first national team to represent us at the world cup, at the biggest level of football," Kundananji said.
Minus their influential captain Kalusha Bwalya and other three foreign-based players at the time, who were expected to fly direct to Dakar, the 25-member strong team all died in the Atlantic Ocean shortly after taking off from a stopover in Libreville, Gabon.
With the bulk of that team being experienced internationals, they were fancied to make history and take Chipolopolo to their first ever World Cup appearance in the US, but after their death, the team missed out by only a point to the Atlas Lions of Morocco.
Kundananji who plays for top Spanish women’s club Madrid CFF, says they remain their angels in this tournament.
"They might be dead but their spirits are with us. Maybe that's why we are doing wonders because I'm sure their souls will rest in peace seeing us represent the nation well here at the World Cup," she added.
This year marks 30 years since that unfortunate crash of the DHC-5 Buffalo Aircraft of the Zambian Airforce and Kundananji (23) says their opening Group C game against Japan in Hamilton on Saturday, gives them the platform to showcase how they appreciate the efforts of the Dream Team of 1993.
"I can say a lot because we all look up to them. Even though I wasn't born when they died but as soon as I heard the story about them, it gave me the impression of trying to work hard. Try to achieve more to reach the level where they were and achieve their goals."
By Velile Mnyandu
Story Credit: SABC