The Zambia national football team in 1993 was the best in the history of the country. This promising team of football talents stopped that day on the outskirts of Libreville, Gabon’s capital.
Zambia made a strong showing in football during the 1988 Olympics when they defeated the mighty Italian team 4-0.
In that match, Kalusha Bwalya, the legendary Zambian footballer, African Footballer of the Year in 1988, who is also called the best Zambian footballer of the 20th century, scored three goals.
Talented Zambian striker Kalusha Bwalya was discovered by a Belgian coach when he was 20 years old and moved to play for Cercle Brugge and then, after the Olympics, to Dutch club Eindhoven. This transfer was decisive, saved his life, and spared the fate of the national team of his country, which was then called the “Red Devils”.
The National Football Association of Zambia was in serious financial difficulties and did not have the funds to rent aircraft or even pay for economy-class tickets, which created a serious obstacle to the participation of the Zambian national football team abroad.
Therefore, the Football Association of Zambia resorted to the help of the Air Force and requested the allocation of an aircraft for such flights.
In 1992, during the qualifying round for the first World Cup, the Zambian national team won their first two matches and then faced the problem of securing a trip to Madagascar, and, as usual, resorted to the assistance of the Zambian Air Force.
On that flight, the pilot insisted that the players take their seats in life jackets because the flight was over the Indian Ocean.
The players exchanged playful conversations about this and took photos for memory. Then the star Kalush turned to his colleagues with the words: “Guys, they always say: this plane will kill us someday.”
In that match, the Zambia national football team lost, and coach Samuel Nhdlovu was fired and replaced by Godfrey Chitalu.
On his return on the same plane after the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers with Mauritius, young Zambian striker Kelvin Motyl told the journalist who accompanied him that the plane, even if it crashed, would be safe because it could land. She tried to calm him down, but noticed that the plane was swaying and lifting with difficulty into the air.
Date with disaster:
A week later, the Zambian national football team boarded the same Canadian-made DHC-5 aircraft and flew back to Senegal to play with their national team.
Players Kalush and Charles Musonda from Anderlecht missed the match in Mauritius, so they drove wildly to the match with Senegal. The captain of the plane, Wiston Mahon, wanted to fly from Lusaka to Brazzaville, then to Libreville and Abidjan, and only then fly to Dakar. This whole long trip arose from the need to refuel. But there was a delay in the operation, as it was a Zambian military aircraft, and the pilots refused to cross the airspace of the Congo.
It was decided to fly from Zambia directly to the Gabon capital of Libreville, where the DHC-5 landed, refueled, went through the usually scheduled checks, and took off again. It exploded two minutes later, killing all five crew members and 25 passengers.
In addition to 18 players, including talented young stars who died in a plane crash, Zambian Football Association President Michael Mwape, as well as head coach Godfrey Chitalu.
Subsequently, as often happens, various versions and rumors about the tragedy appeared, including that the Gabonese army shot down the ill-fated aircraft, mistaken for a hostile target.
Amid this narrative, diplomatic relations between Gabon and Zambia were severed, with each side attempting to blame the other.
Moreover, the plane was not equipped with a black box that recorded what was happening in it. Finally, in 2003, an official report was published stating that the failure of the left engine was the cause of the disaster.
In the following years, the star Kalusha, who survived the disaster, became the engine of the Zambian national team, which became known as the “Brass Bullets”.
The new team continued to shine, and Zambia won the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations by beating Ivory Coast in an 8/7 penalty shootout.
The Zambia national football team dedicated this resounding victory to the players who died in a plane crash in 1993.