Zambia Plan to Name Stadium After Gabon Crash Ignites Backlash

Zambia’s plan to name a national soccer stadium, set to be finished by the end of the year, the Gabon Disaster Heroes National Stadium has ignited national controversy.

The stadium, built by China’s Shanghai Construction Co., will be named to honor the 18 national team players who perished off the Gabonese coast in 1993, Sports Minister Chishimba Kwambili said this week. China’s government helped finance the construction of the 50,000-seat venue.

“At least if it was just Heroes stadium,” James Banda, a 40-year-old carpenter selling hand-carved doors, said in an interview yesterday. “Gabon is another country, this is Zambia.”

The players who died are buried less than 100 meters (328 feet) to the west of the site of the stadium off Cairo Road in the north of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital. The team and five officials were on their way to Senegal for a World Cup qualifier match when the plane crashed.

“If I was asked to give my opinion, I would go with Heroes Stadium,” Kalusha Bwalya, Football Association of Zambia president and the country’s most capped player said in a statement posted to the organizations website yesterday.

The stadium’s name sparked a debate online, where people criticized it for being too long, including some who posted jokes on Twitter under the hashtag #ThingsShorterThanTheNameGivenToTheNewlyBuiltStadiuminLusaka.

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