LIBREVILLE (AFP) - Coach Herve Renard believes Zambia's shock defeat of Ivory Coast in Sunday's Africa Cup of Nations final was "written in the sky".
The Frenchman was referring to Zambia's quest to be crowned the continental champions in homage to their fallen comrades in the national team who were killed in a plane crash off the Libreville coast 19 years ago.
"We know what we wanted to honour this evening, 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," Renard told a post-final press conference.
After Zambia's stunning 8-7 penalty shoot out defeat of hot favourites Ivory Coast Renard embraced Kalusha Bwalya, the Zambian Football Federation chief and only survivor of the ill-fated '93 national team.
Bwalya it was who had enough confidence to appoint Renard, then assistant to Ghana manager Claude LeRoy, as coach of Zambia in 2008, and again to re-sign him in 2010.
Renard reflected: "Kalusha was one of the best Zambian players of the last century.
"Then he was coach of the national team, now our president.
"He survived the crash, he was supposed to have been on that plane which was going to play a World Cup qualifer against Senegal.
"He knows how terrible this crash was for the nation.
"I want to dedicate this title to him, he gave me my chance when nobody knew me.
"With Claude LeRoy and Kalusha I have been fortunate to have met these two people along my journey."
He reckoned Zambia had been lucky to play all their games up to the final across the Gabonese border in Equatorial Guinea, explaining: "It was only possible for us to return to Gabon (to honour the 1993 team) if we made the final, that gave us incredible strength."
Zambian midfielder Isaac Cansa said they appreciated they had achieved something enormous for the Zambian people.
"The 1993 tragedy played its role. We weren't favourites for the competition or the final, but we believed in ourselves."
Renard, who has joined a select club of Frenchman to win the Nations Cup, a group that includes LeRoy and Roger Lemerre, who won in 2004 with Tunisia, says his future lies with Zambia.
"It's a fantastic country. I'm proud to bring the Cup back to Zambia."
Even though it was Stoppila Sunzu who converted the winning penalty his teammate Rainford Kalaba had had the chance to score the decisive spot-kick after Kolo Toure had missed the Ivory Coast's seventh.
"They call Kalaba 'the master' because he's such a fantastic player, but, like (Diego) Maradona or (Michel) Platini he's a human being and is capable of missing something. This wasn't the right time for him to miss, but luckily along came Stoppila to give us the title."