In Lusaka, Zambia, there is a stadium, and outside of that stadium there are 30 graves. At one time there was merely dust amongst these graves, but now there is grass and a memorial to those 30 dead souls. These men and boys have been called National Heroes, and they were most of a golden generation of Zambian soccer players.
Almost 20 years ago a plane took off from Zambia en route to Senegal for a World Cup qualifier. It was 1993, and this Zambian National Team held such promise, such talent. The plane never made it. For reasons that are still unclear event today, the military transport carrying the entire squad, along with 7 FA members and the flight crew, crashed into the ocean mere kilometers after taking off from Libreville, Gabon. Zambia was one of the favorites to qualify for what would have been their first World Cup.
The captain of Zambia, Kalusha Bwalya, as well as a few other players, were not on the flight and were forced to pick up the pieces. How do you replace a generation of a countries top soccer talent? Bwalya may not have known how back in 1993, but now his country is on top of African soccer. Bwalya has seen this ascent every step of the way. First as a player trying to pick up the pieces in the remaining World Cup qualifying, then in an amazing run to the African Cup of Nations finals a year later. Now he sits at the head of Zambia’s FA, and it can be argued none of this would have occurred without his vision.
This is a squad that has been building to something big, much like that 1993 squad that had shocked Italy 4-0 in the 1988 Summer Olympics, only these men were able to finish their journey, not waylaid by tragic circumstance.
Now those 30 graves can rest easy. The promise of their squad has been fulfilled, and now Zambia can move on to another goal, qualifying for the World Cup. Maybe Zambia can finally party in the party country of Brazil