Today we commemorate the death of Zambian football players and their team who died on the evening of the 27th of April in 1993. The Zambians were en route to Senegal for a World Cup qualifier which they were expected to win. Zambia were expected to reach the World Cup for the first time in history.
The Zambian Air Force De Havilland Canada DHC-5D Buffalo carrying the Zambian national soccer team crashed in the Atlantic Ocean just 500 meters offshore from Libreville, Gabon on this night. The Zambian national soccer team, better known by the nickname Chipolopolo perished on the spot. The plane was carrying one of the best if not the best Zambian team of all time. The crash killed all 30 people on board including 18 players, the crew, coaching staff, the football association chair, a journalist and a public servant.
A Gabonese official investigation into the accident concluded that the pilot had shut down the wrong engine after a fire. The investigation found that pilot fatigue and an instrument error had contributed to the accident.
The country’s football federation had to gather players from the diaspora to continue their campaign and they missed out on a place at the USA by a single point. Former Chelsea manager Ian Porterfield (the late) took charge and led them to second place in the following year’s Africa Cup of Nations.
The flight had been specially arranged by the Zambian Air Force for the football team and the journey was scheduled to make three refuelling stop. The first was Brazzaville, Congo, the second at Libreville, Gabon, and the last at Abidjan, Ivory Coast. At the first stop in Brazzaville engine problems were noted. Despite this, the flight continued and a few minutes after taking off from the second stop in Libreville the left engine caught fire and failed, crashing in the Atlantic Ocean 500 meters offshore from Libreville.