Few would have given Zambia a shot at reaching Sunday's Africa Cup of Nations final, but its 1-0 win over Ghana in the semifinals means that it is in the Gabon capital of Libreville for a date with destiny.
It was Libreville where a military plane carrying Zambia's national team to Senegal for a World Cup qualifier took off in 1993 and crashed into the sea two minutes after take-off. Kalusha Bwalya, Zambia's biggest star, was not on the plane because he was set to fly from the Netherlands, where he was playing for PSV. But he will be in Libreville for Sunday's final against Ivory Coast as the president of the Zambian soccer federation.
"It means a lot," Bwalya said after the win over Ghana. "We are pleased. Everybody's so happy to be where we are. We thank God every day for the path we have taken, for the direction that we have, but it's the boys who have done it. I think when we go to Libreville that we will get emotional. I think there will be a reconnect before the game with the new team and the old team and hopefully we can end it well on Sunday."
Zambia's French coach, Herve Renard, says his team will play to honor the memories of the 1993 team.
"It was catastrophic for the nation," he says. "The 12 million people of Zambia are waiting for us to go back to Libreville. Immediately after we arrive, we will go to the place. We just have to think of them and play for them and play for Zambia because it's a fantastic country."