Chipolopolo Champions of Africa

By Peter Alegi | February 13th, 2012 9 Comments

The room was tense. Zambia and Ivory Coast had played their hearts out in a goalless draw over 120+ minutes and now it came down to penalties. With me, watching a good stream on the big screen at work (on a Sunday), were three Zambians, a Kenyan, two American soccer aficionados, and my family.

Drogba had missed a penalty in regulation so the momentum seemed ever so slightly to favor the underdog Zambians. Chipolopolo prayed and prayed on the pitch, one of our Zambian friends commented wryly: “I didn’t know Zambians were so religious!”

As Zambia’s French coach Herve Renard would tell the media after the game, “I know we’re not the best, but we have a strength and force that animated our team.”

With the score tied at 7-7 in the shootout, Arsenal’s Gervinho shot wide and Sunzu stepped up for Zambia’s second chance to win.

Gooooooool!!!! The Zambians roared.

“I can’t believe it happened in my lifetime,” one of the Chipolopolo supporters exclaimed. We saluted the champions of Africa. Cell phones came out in an attempt to reach Lusaka.

The day after, not many people are at work, or so it seems . . . the Lusaka Times reports that “a thunderous welcome awaits the newly crowned Champions of African football” at Kaunda airport today.

With eight of the Zambian players based in South Africa, a national anthem based on Nkosi Sikelel’, and venerable liberation struggle ties, some of us delight in the fiction that a little piece of South Africa won as well.

That Chipolopolo became champions of Africa in Libreville, where the 1993 air crash killed the greatest Zambian team ever, made this triumph all the more special.

Viva Chipolopolo Viva!


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Solomon Waliaula

February 13th, 2012 | 7:25 am    

The sheer historical significance of a Zambia win outweighed that of an Ivory Coast win, and I also think that Zambia played excellent soccer throughout the tournament.

Paul Darby

February 13th, 2012 | 8:24 am    

After watching horrified over the weekend as my beloved Liverpool lurched from one PR disaster to the next, Zambia’s victory last night and the spirit in which the game was played restored my faith in the beautiful game. A tale of two handshakes – the one that never was between Suarez and Evra and the one between Mweene and Barry during the penalty shoot out – highlighted the gulf in class between events in Libreville and planet Premiership. A poignant, fitting tribute to those who perished in 1993 and I hope that the homecoming celebrations pause and remember at Heroes Acra in Lusaka.


February 13th, 2012 | 9:20 am    

Copper Bullets, Coppers Bottomed, Copper Wired, Cooper Crowned Kings of African Football!


February 13th, 2012 | 10:13 am    

Well said Paul, thank you for your comment.

heroes acre

February 13th, 2012 | 12:30 pm    

Jonathan Wilson in Libreville
The Guardian, Sunday 12 February 2012

African Week in Review Feb 11-17 | The African File

February 19th, 2012 | 2:00 am    

[…] Check out the video highlights of the kicks from the spot on youtube while Eurosport leaves them up!… […]

Hikabwa Chipande

February 19th, 2012 | 10:40 am    

I enjoyed reading Rafa Benitez (former Chelsea coach) analysis of the Zambia Ivory Coast match. You can see it on his blog:

[…] excellent coverage of the tournament, wrote this beautiful match report for The Guardian. And Peter Alegi has written a striking account of the experience of watching the game, which includes videos of the grueling and intense penalty kick shoot-out. There was a tenderness, […]

[…] dramatic story of Zambia’s underdog run to the championship; discussed by one of our FSF captains Peter Alegi here (with video), by The Guardian here, and by Laurent Dubois here. For a different angle, see Sean Jacobs on Africa […]

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