Mweene: Zambia's most important win
Kennedy Mweene is obviously a man who can handle pressure. Already a household name amongst South African football fans, the Zambian international plays his club football for Free State Stars. At the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, he proved to be an inspirational match-winner in Zambia's semi-final victory, where he saved Asamoah Gyan's penalty. He followed that up with another top-drawer performance against Côte d’Ivoire in the final, where he not only saved another spot-kick but also scored from the spot during the decisive penalty shoot-out.
The 27-year-old discussed Zambia's first continental triumph with FIFA.com shortly after the Chipolopolo secured an 8-7 result in the shoot-out after 120 scoreless minutes.
FIFA.com: When did you first start believing that you could win the competition and the final?
Mweene: I always thought that it would be our day. We all had faith in ourselves and belief in our strength. We knew that we could do it and we were very determined.
Côte d’Ivoire were awarded a penalty in the 68th minute after Gervinho was brought down. What were your thoughts when it was awarded and when Ivorian captain Didier Drogba blasted it high into the Libreville night?
My first thought was that I did not think that it was a penalty. I thought it was a harsh decision. But after the miss, I thought that it was going to be a good day. Sometimes when you concede a penalty and the other side misses it, you just know that it is your day and that is what happened.
Many were surprised how Zambia went into the game and controlled the ball. As a result, the Elephants really struggled to get into the game. Was that planned?
Yes, that was our strategy. We wanted to 'ball them'. We wanted to play a ball game with them, and then when they got frustrated because they did not get much of the ball and were not at full concentration, then we would hit them going forward. That was our plan, even if it did not work out completely.
Especially in the first half, your side seemed to really just be relishing the opportunity to play in the final.
Yes, we had no reason to be nervous. We were not under pressure, all the pressure was on them. We did not have anything to lose and before the game our coach told us we just have to go out and enjoy whatever happens, well and good.
Do you think you deserved to win the match in regulation time?
Yes, I think we did. We had three really good chances, which we could not convert, but at the end of the day, we won on penalties, so what can you say.
What did you think when you saved the penalty in the shoot-out, but the referee said it had to be retaken?
He told me that I had moved off my line. I was not too worried as I knew that I was going to save other penalties. We have been practising penalties and I knew that even if we were going to go 12 or 15 each side, I was going to save enough of them.
And then when you stepped up to take your side's fifth, knowing that if you failed to score you would lose, was that difficult?
No, I was very confident that I would not have a problem scoring, and I did not. I just chose my spot and hit the ball there.
What significance does this victory have for Zambian football?
We are the first generation that has won the Cup of Nations for Zambia, but I hope we are not the last as it is a great thing. We have started winning something and those who come after us will want to achieve more, just as we wanted to do more than players like Kalusha Bwalya, who was in the final in 1994. But first we want to qualify for the World Cup and achieve more success.
During the week, the players laid flowers at the spot where the plane carrying the national team in 1993 went into the sea and 18 players lost their lives. How important is it that this victory was achieved in Libreville, which is the very place where the plane went down?
This is the most important thing that could have happened for our football. Before we came to Gabon, people in Zambia told us that we should try to win the cup so that those who died in the plane crash could rest in peace. We fought for them, and I am glad that we achieved that.