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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Soccer… A Zambia Safari Pastime

Every year April 28 is a sad day in Zambia. Slightly over twelve years ago on this day a terrible tragedy befell Zambia. A planeload carrying an entire national football team, its officials, journalist and the planes’ crew crashed off the coast of Gabon. All perished. It was a black April Day in Zambia.

The plane had taken off from Libreville the capital city of Gabon on its way to Senegal. The Zambian team was to play a world cup qualifier against Senegal. It was never to be. After noticing some problem the pilot turned the plane back to try and land but unfortunately it exploded a few metres above the sea. It plunged down into the sea.

For this year’s memorial of our national team we decided on a social game of football. After all they died for soccer and we wanted to remember this team considered the best Zambia ever produced. A monument to their honour stands at the burial ground near the Independence Stadium in Lusaka.

Here Enters Our Safari Striker
The forward striker appeared as if from nowhere on the left flank intent on getting the ball from the defender, the opposite side fullback. His chin thrust forward, chest pushed out like a soldier, he ran forward. Eyes on the ball… He might have been thinking he was moving very fast but to onlookers he was just about the slowest striker ever seen on a pitch.

Like the titans, they clashed. Our striker somersaulted through the air and landed with a sickening thud on his back. Just imagine a heavy weight doing that. He lifted himself up and started running forward in the same direction as if nothing had happened. Eyes darting everywhere and unfortunately the ball was nowhere to be seen. Like a thief the defender was on the run with the ball in the opposite direction. Realisation dawned and our striker suddenly stopped in his track. He was confused. He didn’t know what had happened.

The spectators went agog, gagging and cackling... The somber mood forgotten! Clearly his talents were not anywhere near playing football.

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