A week is a long time in Football. Over the past seven days, the back pages have been dominated by the Luis Suarez/Patrice Evra handshake row, Harry Redknapp’s dodgy taxes and the removal of John Terry as England captain, all pretty negative stories don’t you think?

But in the middle of it all, sandwiched on ITV4 between a sloppy rom-com on Channel 4 and Match of the Day 2 on BBC2, was one of the most heart-warming footballing stories ever staged. Zambia claimed the African Nations Cup after defeating heavy favourites Ivory Coast in the final, courtesy of a stunning penalty shootout.

The victory was unheard of. Ivory Coast fielded a seemingly much stronger team which was littered with Premier League stars and some of the finest players outside the English leagues. Players like Seydou Doumbia and Yaya Toure failed where their unfancied opponents triumphed.

Newcastle fans watched on as their midfield lynchpin Cheick Tiote played a full 120 minutes and tucked away the first Ivory Coast penalty with ease, although it wasn’t enough to take his side to their first African Nations title in 20 years.

However, the win was made that little bit more special by the fact that in 1993, 18 Zambian players were killed in a plane crash as they made their way to Senegal for a World Cup qualifier. You had a feeling that the longer the game went on, the more inspired the current Zambia players would be by the loss of their predecessors 19 years earlier.

It gets spookier when the plane that day took off from Libreville, the very city where last night’s final was held. The omens were never on Ivory Coast’s side.

The feeling that it was not going to be Ivory Coast’s day became more apparent when Didier Drogba – arguably Africa’s best player – missed a penalty in normal time to give Zambia yet more belief.

When the 120 minutes passed without any goals, the lottery of the penalty shootout would decide the winner of Africa’s biggest football competition. Watching on, you got the feeling that with everything that happened before, it was going to be Zambia’s night.

The shootout itself was one of the best ever staged. Every one of both sides’ first seven penalties found the back of the net before Kolo Toure had his spot kick saved. The chance for glory fell to Rainford Kalaba – who looked no older than 12 – but he blasted over the bar with nationwide acclaim beckoning.

However the chance hadn’t gone for Zambia and after another Premier League star, Arsenal’s Gervinho, floated his effort high over the bar, Zambia had a second match point that they were not going to waste. Stoppila Sunzu stepped up – whilst his team-mates watched on with their arms around each other, singing – and beat Boubacar Barry to earn the “Copper Bullets” a famous victory.

Coach Herve Renard, a Frenchman formerly in charge of Cambridge United, exploded with joy when the ball found the net and even carried an injured Zambian substitute to celebrate with his team-mates, such was the team-spirit shown by the minnows.

It was a story to brighten up the doom and gloom of the English press this week, and it was much needed. A story that makes you ashamed to complain when things aren’t going your club’s particular way and a story that puts English footballing expectations into stark perspective.