Although the Zambian national team that perished during the 1993 plane crash in Gabon had world class players, Wedson Nyirenda had ticked all the boxes to also be selected for the team.
Nyirenda had been part of the Chipolopolo since 1990 but was later banned for the whole year alongside his Power Dynamos teammates by the Zambian Football Association for boycotting their Mandela Cup (Now CAF Confederation Cup) match against Burundi side Vital’O FC.
As today marks 27 years since the plane that was carrying most of the Zambian national football team crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, Nyirenda opens up to FARPost on how he nearly was part of the traveling squad after his ban was lifted.
“The Wednesday before they left for Mauritius we (Power Dynamos) played a friendly match against the national team because they didn’t select me into the national team because of match fitness,” he said.
“I scored 2 great goals against them so the coach (Godfrey Chitalu) said okay ‘Wedson we ae leaving to Lusaka and then Mauritius but when we come back from Mauritius we will call you to come and join us as we go to Senegal’ so I said okay thanks because as a player I was happy that I am back into the national team.
“What happens? They went to Mauritius they played and won 3-0 and I was waiting, they were using the same Buffalo plane mind you and when they were coming back all the players were complaining that it was not okay. When coming back it was more shaky and something was not right,” continued Nyirenda.
“They landed safely and then as I was waiting for them I was told that they had left for Senegal I was mad and said arg what is this now? But I said it’s okay in happens in football when they come back I will join. What do I hear? The following day because they had a stopover in Libreville, Gabon 5 minutes after taking off, it happens!” he said.
“How would you feel? You were supposed to be on that plane, believe me I was like a mad man. All the players’ wives gathered at my place asking is this true? The whole nation was dark and quiet. You could just hear people sobbing everywhere,” he added.
Nyirenda went on to secure a move to Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs the same year but failed to make the cut into the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations squad and the rebuilding process.
With the new squad, Zambia still managed to reach the Afcon final, but lost to Nigeria.
RELATED STORY: ON THIS DAY: Zambia national team plane crash
By Ofhani Munyai