Exactly 10 years ago, in my capacity as head of delegation for the ZNT at CAN 2012, I was involved in an incident that had previously been ignored or simply underestimated.
It was the fight for the orange jersey – a fight that felt like defending the national flag, albeit in the boardroom. Every time I think about it, it brings back deep memories.
Heading into the final, the Zambia national team had donned the orange top – green jersey shorts, except for the quarter-final against joint hosts – Equatorial Guinea when the green top and black jersey shorts were worn. been used.
The orange jersey came to symbolize our lucky charm and was the preferred first choice jersey for ZNT.
The incident referred to happened on the morning of February 10, 2012 when we went for the pre-match meeting at the sumptuous Softel hotel where the CAF delegation was based.
In my delegation were the member of the FAZ Excom, Elijah Chileshe, who was the deputy of the HOD, Lusekelo Kamwambi and Dr. Joseph Kabungo, the team doctor.
The meeting was scheduled for 10:00 a.m. in meeting room 4. Our delegation arrived around 09:50 a.m. and we found match commissioner Dr Olefi Oliphant and the match officials already seated.
The delegation of the Ivory Coast team arrived a little after 10 a.m. and they entered the room with an excessive emphasis and pride, which can only come from people who are full of themselves and who have little respect for their rivals.
We quickly went through the usual formalities of the meeting until we came to the jersey issue. In this match, we were the designated home team and tournament rules gave us the right to submit the preferred jersey first.
Lusekelo submitted our Orange/Green jersey and the Ivory Coast delegation submitted a green/orange top and orange kicks.
The colors simply collided. When the Ivory Coast delegation was asked to submit their second-choice kit, everything was orange. Headache for Dr. Oliphant.
He then asked me what was the second choice for Zambia, I told him it was just not considered on our side since we were the home team.
The Ivory Coast delegation said they could arrange a third-choice kit – all puma white but it would take 36 hours to fly to Gabon and that would mean postponing the final.
Dr Oliphant begged us to consider using the green/black jersey which was our second choice but I refused to budge.
He asked for a suspension so that he consults. I texted the president and he came down to the lobby.
After informing him of the situation, he explained to me that we had to respect our rights as a local team.
The meeting resumed after 10 minutes, and there was no breakthrough in sight.
The meeting ended after two hours inconclusively, with the match commissioner informing us that he was referring the matter to the CAF Emergency Committee for final decision.
Towards the beginning of the afternoon, as we were finishing our lunch at the team hotel, Monique the receptionist came to fetch me with an impeccably addressed letter to the Head of Delegation for ZNT.
This was from the CAF General Secretary informing that the CAF Emergency Committee, after considering the unique situation we had found ourselves in, had decided that the Zambia national team should wear green and black while that Ivory Coast should be in all Orange.
I quickly informed the president of the verdict. Shortly after, Lusekelo, Patrice and Hervé joined me as I soaked up the implications of this letter.
Hervé just shrugged his shoulders without betraying his positivity and said that we would still play to win.
Later at the stadium, I met Dr Oliphant outside the east dressing room, which ZNT used.
He gave me an apologetic smile and patted me on the shoulder and assured me that everything was fine.
I didn’t harbor any resentment towards anyone about the result, just felt upset that I let the team down by not making sure their preference for the Orange shirt won.
What came to my mind was – what if the sudden change of favorite jersey affected the performance of the team.
It wasn’t just another match, but the final of an epic proportional and possibly the greatest match of their lives.
On my way to the VIP section, I met a member of the Ivory Coast delegation who gave me a smirk as if to communicate that ‘we won the first leg on the shirt, wait no more from U.S……’ .
My outrage grew, but was diluted by that premonition I had felt when we were leaving South Africa for the tournament – the belief that we were going to do more than we had done in previous tournaments.
Five hours later we were crowned African champions and immediately after the medal formalities, I went to get this Ivorian official to sympathize with him, because I was taught that even in victory, magnanimity must prevail …
[The Author, Borniface Mwamelo is a former FAZ Vice President]