HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsInnerzella: The Zambian bumblebee

Innerzella: The Zambian bumblebee


According to the theory to aerodynamics, the Bumblebee, because of its shape, weight and wing span in relation to its body, should not be able to fly.

The bumblebee, being ignorant of scientific theory, goes ahead and flies anyway!

Much has been written about Zambia’s success at the just-ended African Cup of Nations finals. I would like, if I may, to add my two cents’ worth.

Twitter was crazy all night during the final and one of my mates emailing back and forth through out during the penalty shootout tried to calm all our nerves by emphatically stating that it was “destiny” that Zambia would prevail.

Now that is not a scientific fact, but like the bumblebee, we are now in the realm of the fantastic.

I have written before on how, on the eve of Zimbabwe’s Warriors departure for Tunisia in 2004, our coach said:

“We are going to learn.” I know experience counts for any major international tournament, but try telling that to the Sprinboks in ’95, Bafana Bafana in ’96, Greece in Euro 2004, and now of course Chipolopolo.

There were three favourites going in to the tournament: Senegal, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, all three bursting at the seams with technically superior players plying their trade in the most competitive leagues in Europe.

The weekly pay cheques of some of the players would pay the wages of the entire Zambian team. How did Zambia do it?

Defining success: From the moment the draws were conducted, the Zambian mission became that of honouring the heroes who perished in a plane crash off the coast of Gabon. The Zambian run was full of symbolism.

It was on a trip to Senegal that the team perished and the motivation was high for a win in the opening match. Hervé Renard, the Zambian coach said:

“We wanted to honour the dead players and that strengthened us. Our first game was against Senegal and the team was on its way to Senegal for a match when the plane crashed.”

Results-focused: Having been motivated by something “higher than themselves” something intangible, the best way to measure the achievement of success was to win the tournament.

Action: Win every match with a healthy disregard for the impossible. You do not rock up at a tournament and beat a team like Côte d’Ivoire in the final, but once again symbolism took over.

Arriving in Gabon for the final, the team made their way to the beach and the spot nearest to where the plane crashed in ’93 and laid wreaths in homage to the squad. Renard also said:

“The plane crashed in Gabon and we won the final in Gabon. It was a sign of destiny, written in the sky. There was a force with us. I think God has helped us and given us strength.”

Leadership: Zambia’s greatest soccer export is Kalusha Bwalya, now president of their football association. He made the bold decision to rehire unknown Renard.

Veteran defender Joseph Musonda made a tearful exit from the pitch 11 minutes in to the final as he twisted his ankle clearing the ball.

One of the enduring images from this final was the sight of Renard carrying the injured Musonda back on to the pitch and dropping him off by his teammates side so that he could join in the celebrations. There is no better example of leadership.

Zimbabwe does not need a disaster to spur her on. Greece did not have a disaster when they won Euro 2004.

They had a steely resolve to “look each player in the eye” as their German coach stated before the tournament. Here is what the BBC had to say about their triumph:

“Greece won the final as they played all of their campaign. Organisation overcame flair once more as they deservedly defeated opponents of some repute by turning the match into a test of wills. In truth, Rehhagel’s team have no other choice if they want to win football matches against opponents of superior technical ability.

But they put their plan into action so brilliantly, working hard for each other, never losing their shape or composure and striking with no little speed and skill.”

There is the test for whoever manages the Zimbabwean team. Skill is key. But of course!

There has to be a threshold standard with the added advantage of exceptional players. Your role as manager is to get the tactics right and infuse the right amount of motivation and will power that leads to an impregnable self-belief; the kind that we saw in clear evidence as Zambia took the match to Côte d’Ivoire with style, elegance, confidence and discipline.

That is what I write about week after week in this column: the Innerzela to succeed when you light that candle, instead of cursing the darkness. The Zambians were not in mourning, they were in campaign mode and all neutral supporters, including the Gabonese fans, were willing them to victory.

Everyone wants closure and I do not think the world of sport has even been so positively biased towards one team over another highly respected team that, too, had its share of disasters back home with the civil war.

They conducted themselves with dignity and professionalism going into the final unbeaten and without a goal conceded, but destiny was with Zambia. “Never accept less than your destiny.” It is written in the stars, go and claim it!

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