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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 April, 2003, 18:21 GMT 19:21 UK
The day a nation cried
Kelvin Mutale's grave
Kelvin Mutale died in the crash

This Monday, 28 April, marks the 10 year anniversary of a day that will never be forgotten in Zambia.

Thirty people died, 18 of them players in the national team, when the Zambian Air Force plane they were in crashed into the sea off the coast of Gabon.

It was a disaster that rocked the footballing world.

The team was travelling to Senegal for a World Cup qualifier.

Those who died were buried just outside Independence Stadium in Lusaka, at a special monument called "Heroes' Acre."

The tragedy cut down a generation of extremely talented players, and sent a whole nation into mourning.

It also raised a string of questions that, to this day, remain unanswered.

What went wrong on that flight?

Why did the team travel on a military plane?

Were warnings that the plane, a Buffalo CT 15, was not fit to fly ignored?

And why, 10 years after the event and following a lengthy investigation, have the Zambian government proved unable to produce a report outlining the causes of the crash?

If official actions and governmental reactions are open to question, the response of Zambia's footballers is not.

Against all the odds, a completely rebuilt national team reached the final of the following year's Nations Cup in Tunisia.

Numba Mwila was one of the victims
Numba Mwila's family have lead protests

Chipolopolo, as the team is known, also came within one game of qualifying for the 1994 World Cup finals.

It was an extraordinary effort from a combination of young, unproven talent, and players previously considered not of international class.

Zambia were also lucky enough to be able to field captain Kalusha Bwalya and Charles Musonda, team stalwarts who had not been on the fatal flight.

That extraordinary rise from the ashes suggested an enormous strength in depth in Zambian football.

But since 1994 the country's football has entered into decline, and the Southern African nation is no longer a continental power.

Now the ten year anniversary of the disaster is almost upon Zambians, and fans, friends and families of the deceased are combining to mark the event with dignity.

The same cannot be said of the Zambian government, however: Sports minister Rev. Gladys Nyirongo has said the commemoration of the anniversary is not the government's responsibility.

Sichone honours glory Bullets
22 Apr 03  |  African
Zambia disaster plans in disarray
10 Apr 03  |  African

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