Oh My…

Posted January 26th, 2015 at 1:19 pm (UTC-4)
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Manchester City’s new signing Wilfried Bony pulled an amazing bit of skill over the weekend at AFCON 2015.

The move, called an “elastico” because it involves a quick snappy change of direction, was popularized by Brazilian legend Ronaldinho during his mesmerizing career.

To add insult to injury, Bony’s “elastico” nutmegged Malian defender Molla Wagué, the latter scrambling to cover the ball to safety as it went in between his legs.

No one will know why Wagué impeding Bony’s run wasn’t called a penalty, but we sense that the referee must have thought Bony’s skill was punishment enough.

To be fair to Wagué, he isn’t the first defender to fall victim to Bony’s bag of tricks.

Teff Teff
Raised in Ethiopia, Teff Teff has played the game for as long as he remembers. He is a huge Manchester United supporter who tries to emulate his heroes the best way he can, on FIFA or at the local park. He is a multimedia producer for the Africa Division at VOA, where he spreads the football gospel to anyone who listens.

Equatorial Guinea Reaches Knockout Round with Win Over Gabon

Posted January 26th, 2015 at 11:19 am (UTC-4)
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Equatorial Guinea’s Vazquez Evuy challenges Gabon’s Madinda during their Group A soccer match of the 2015 African Cup of Nations in Bata. (REUTERS)

Equatorial Guinea sent hometown fans into exultation Sunday, with a 2-0 win over Gabon that sent the Africa Cup of Nations host advancing to the knockout round.

A 55th minute foul by Lloyd Palun against striker Javier Balboa led to a penalty and a goal by Balboa.

Gabon, led by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, struggled to match the goal, but Equatorial Guinea sealed victory in the 86th minute when Ibán slotted home a left footed howler from the center of the box.

Also Sunday, Congo emerged atop Group A standings, advancing to the knockout round with a 2-1 win over Burkina Faso. Fabrice N’Guessi and Thievy Bifouma led the scoring for Congo, who will appear in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1992.

Mike Eckel
Mike Eckel's dreams of being drafted by Man United or FC Barcelona peaked when he was captain of his high school football team, but ended during his short-lived college career. He continues to be an avid player (midfield) however and holds out hope that Jozy Altidore will get his act together for 2018. When not running VOA's football blogs, he writes about Russia, international war crimes, Central Asia corruption and oversees VOA's multimedia collaboration efforts.

Mali Frustrates Cote D’Ivoire; Cameroon, Guinea Tie

Posted January 25th, 2015 at 4:24 pm (UTC-4)
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Les Elephants continued to show middling results in Africa Cup of Nations 2015, as a dogged Malian side scored early and then held off repeated attacks until a late goal from Max Gradel.

Fans of Equatorial Guinea cheer before their Group A soccer match against Gabon at the African Cup of Nations in Bata. (REUTERS)

Saturday’s 1-1 draw put Mali and Cote D’Ivoire tied at the top of Group D, along with the other teams in the group, Cameroon and Guinea, who themselves drew.

Mali’s Bakary Sako, who plays for the Premier League’s Wolves, exploded early, in the 7th minute, with a half-volley that rocketed past the Cote D’Ivorian keeper.

Cote D’Ivoire repeatedly either flubbed good chances, or met a stiff Malian defense, until Serge Aurier sent a sharp pass to the substituted Gradel and he hit a low shot beyond Germain Berthe.

Cameroon took an early lead with a long range goal from Benjamin Moukandjo in the 13th minute. Ibrahima Traoré responded for Guinea in the 42nd minute

The final game of Group D is set for Wednesday, with Cameroon facing Ivory Coast, and Guinea playing Mali. A win by any would send them through to knockout.

Cameroon has lifted the AFCON trophy four times but not since 2002.

Mike Eckel
Mike Eckel's dreams of being drafted by Man United or FC Barcelona peaked when he was captain of his high school football team, but ended during his short-lived college career. He continues to be an avid player (midfield) however and holds out hope that Jozy Altidore will get his act together for 2018. When not running VOA's football blogs, he writes about Russia, international war crimes, Central Asia corruption and oversees VOA's multimedia collaboration efforts.

Ghana Stuns Algeria; South Africa, Senegal Draw

Posted January 23rd, 2015 at 5:38 pm (UTC-4)
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When Ghana announced that Asamoah Gyan had contracted malaria on the eve of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, fans of the Black Stars were understandably discouraged.

The striker who plays in the UAE Pro League was forced to watch his side’s opening 2-1 loss to Senegal from the sidelines.

Algeria’s Carl Medjani (R) looks on as Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan (C) scores the winning goal during their 2015 African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match in Mongomo. (REUTERS)

But the Ghanian captain silenced his doubters and elated fans Friday, scoring a scorcher of a goal against Algeria, keeping Ghana’s hopes for advancing alive.

The win stunned Algeria, who are the top ranked Africa team in the FIFA rankings, and the team mainly believe will ultimately raise the AFCON 2015 trophy.

The match was scoreless into extra time, with many expecting yet another tie that would give Algeria the advantage going into a final match against Senegal.

But in the 91st minute, Gyan collected a pass on the right corner of the Algerian box from Mubarak Wakaso, and sent it shooting into the bottom left corner.

Avram Grant, the former Chelsea, West Ham and Portsmouth coach, who now runs the Black Stars, had only superlatives for Gyan, according to the BBC:

“Asamoah Gyan was not fit – he didn’t train like he needed to – but he’s Asamoah Gyan, if you look at the stats and his behaviour in the dressing room.

“You know I have been coach of some of the great players – he’s one of the greatest. First – he always scores when you need him. Second – he’s good for the spirit of the team – he’s a very good captain.”

In other Group C action, South Africa scored early in the second half, but couldn’t hold off Senegal, as the rivals tied at 1, putting Senegal at the top of the group table.

 

 

Mike Eckel
Mike Eckel's dreams of being drafted by Man United or FC Barcelona peaked when he was captain of his high school football team, but ended during his short-lived college career. He continues to be an avid player (midfield) however and holds out hope that Jozy Altidore will get his act together for 2018. When not running VOA's football blogs, he writes about Russia, international war crimes, Central Asia corruption and oversees VOA's multimedia collaboration efforts.

So You Think You Can Dance?

Posted January 23rd, 2015 at 3:51 pm (UTC-4)
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Celebrating a goal in football is an art in itself. From intricately choreographed team celebrations, to individual acrobatics that would be the envy of any gymnast, there’s no doubt that the AFCON surely offers the best of the lot when it comes to continental tournaments. So who is stealing the show at AFCON 2015?

Zambian players seem to have brought not only their cleats but their dancing shoes as well to Equatorial Guinea. You don’t have to believe our words, just check out some of their moves below.

Emmanuel Mayuka might or might not have hurt himself with this celebration (he is 50% likely to play in Zambia’s last game)

judges-score

 

Zambia currently sits at the bottom of their group having drawn one game with Cape Verde and having lost another to Tunisia. Some of us here hope Zambia can pull a miraculous win to advance from the group stages, because no team that celebrates so well should be eliminated so quickly.

Honorable mention: Gabon National Team

Borussia Dortmund’s Aubameyang and his teammates had a few moves of their own during their opening match:

Teff Teff
Raised in Ethiopia, Teff Teff has played the game for as long as he remembers. He is a huge Manchester United supporter who tries to emulate his heroes the best way he can, on FIFA or at the local park. He is a multimedia producer for the Africa Division at VOA, where he spreads the football gospel to anyone who listens.

The White Witch Speaks: “This is a Very Nice AFCON!”

Posted January 23rd, 2015 at 2:24 pm (UTC-4)
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Congo has already seen historic success in this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, its first appearance in the tournament since 2000.

Under the experienced eyes of Frenchman Claude Leroy, the Red Devils opened their bid for trophy with a 1-1 tie against Equatorial Guinea, but then notched a 1-0 victory against Gabon.

Leroy, who’s known affectionately as the “White Witch,” told VOA’s Nicolas Pinault this week that he’s expecting a difficult last game against Burkina Faso on Sunday.

Leroy

VOA: How did you celebrate this first victory of Congo in the African Cup of Nations since 1974?

LEROY: Last night at the common meal, we enjoyed this first victory for Congo in 41 years in the finals. Indeed, it called for a celebration. We return[ed] to training on Thursday.  The work has resumed.

VOA: What makes the playoffs magic still operating during this final phase?

LEROY: It’s been a year that it’s been working, gradually building a core team. There are quality players but, above all, a great state of mind. We know that there is no margin [of error]. We know that if we don’t do the maximum, we are going to meet with cruel disappointment. It will hurt everyone. Whatever happens this adventure is already great!

VOA: What do you think of your next opponent, Burkina Faso? Are they on the brink (of elimination)?

LEROY: They are not on the brink. They are a strong team even if they have not scored in two games. Burkina is still solid and punchy with Pitroipa and the Traore brothers, Bancé.  [Behind], they are muscular and go high into the air. We will play as we know how, without taking things too seriously. If you ask me to play a qualifier draw, you can immediately dismiss me because I do not know how. Players must have some fun, seriously.

VOA: Have you accommodation conditions improved?

LEROY: It is much better. People are dedicated to helping us. It was mostly very complicated in the three days before our match against Equatorial Guinea. Since that game is over, everything is much simpler… .

VOA: How do you feel Equatorial Guinea has organized this AFCON, at the last minute?

LEROY: “It’s amazing. It’s a very nice AFCON. I’m not saying this because we have good results. We see people in stadiums. The turf is good. People don’t talk about it, but there is a very good refereeing. In the first 10 matches, the referees were quality. This African Cup of Nations is impressive! Good matches; tight, young talent. It is a beautiful competition. ”

Listen to the original interview in French (and read it here)

 

Mike Eckel
Mike Eckel's dreams of being drafted by Man United or FC Barcelona peaked when he was captain of his high school football team, but ended during his short-lived college career. He continues to be an avid player (midfield) however and holds out hope that Jozy Altidore will get his act together for 2018. When not running VOA's football blogs, he writes about Russia, international war crimes, Central Asia corruption and oversees VOA's multimedia collaboration efforts.

Tunisia Beats Zambia 2-1; Cape Verde, DR Congo Scoreless

Posted January 22nd, 2015 at 9:59 pm (UTC-4)
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Tunisia capitalized on brief play from a 10-man Zambian squad after Emmanuel Mayuka went to the sidelines, as Ahmed Akaichi scored and Yasine Chikhaoui followed up to give Tunisia the win.

APTOPIX Equatorial Guinea Soccer African Cup

Tunisia’s goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi, right, is challenged by Zambia’s Emmanuel Mayuka, left, during their African Cup of Nations Group B soccer match in Ebibeyin, Equatorial Guinea, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. (AP)

The win puts Tunisia at the top of Group B with four points after two games, while Zambia has just one point, with one last game to play in order to advance.

Mayuka opened the scoring for Zambia in the 59th minute, but then injured himself in the 67th minute. As play continued with Mayuka on the sidelines, Akaichi pounced on a goal mouth scramble to punch home an equalizer for Tunisia.

Chikhaoui headed home the winning goal for Tunisia at the 89th minute.

Zambia must grab a win against Cape Verde in its last qualifying match, to stay in contention for the knockout round. Zambia has also not won a match since winning the Cup of Nations in 2012.

In other Group B action, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cape Verde battled to a scoreless draw. Both sides must win their final matches in order to advance.

 

 

Mike Eckel
Mike Eckel's dreams of being drafted by Man United or FC Barcelona peaked when he was captain of his high school football team, but ended during his short-lived college career. He continues to be an avid player (midfield) however and holds out hope that Jozy Altidore will get his act together for 2018. When not running VOA's football blogs, he writes about Russia, international war crimes, Central Asia corruption and oversees VOA's multimedia collaboration efforts.

Africa Cup of Nations: The Passion of the Fans

Posted January 22nd, 2015 at 11:42 am (UTC-4)
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There is nothing quite like football fans. Think the fervor of a religious revival, the uninhibited emotion of a rock concert, the intensity of a political rally. This year’s Africa Cup of Nations is no exception to that rule.

Check out some of the beautiful faces attending the matches of the beautiful game in Equatorial Guinea this past week.

 

Mike Eckel
Mike Eckel's dreams of being drafted by Man United or FC Barcelona peaked when he was captain of his high school football team, but ended during his short-lived college career. He continues to be an avid player (midfield) however and holds out hope that Jozy Altidore will get his act together for 2018. When not running VOA's football blogs, he writes about Russia, international war crimes, Central Asia corruption and oversees VOA's multimedia collaboration efforts.

Setting High Goals

Posted January 22nd, 2015 at 8:46 am (UTC-4)
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A goal, the holy grail of football. Every footballer wants to do it, and every fan wants to see it.

The Africa Cup of Nations having hosted many of these goals, we decided to brush up on our number skills by finding four interesting scoring facts.

Check out this video, and see if you can play along.

 

Want to take a wild guess about how many goals will be scored in AFCON 2015? (Hint: 20 have already been scored)

Post a comment below, and we’ll make sure to revisit your predictions.

 

Teff Teff
Raised in Ethiopia, Teff Teff has played the game for as long as he remembers. He is a huge Manchester United supporter who tries to emulate his heroes the best way he can, on FIFA or at the local park. He is a multimedia producer for the Africa Division at VOA, where he spreads the football gospel to anyone who listens.

Football, Fun and Festivities… And Lots of Police

Posted January 21st, 2015 at 8:03 pm (UTC-4)
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Equatorial Guinea Daily Life

People walk along the main road in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Bata is one of the venues for the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament currently taking place. (AP)

BATA, Equatorial Guinea _ Word on the street is that the stadiums have never been so full of fans for any Africa Cup of Nations in the past.

That may be because Equatorial Guinea has given out 40,000 tickets for free so locals can attend the matches.

That’s one of the eyebrow-raising details that has popped up during this year’s premier African football tournament. The country’s authoritarian leader is Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who, in the course of becoming Africa’s longest ruling leader, has created what many consider to be a police state, funded largely by revenues from substantial oil revenues. That’s given him alot of leeway to make sure his countrymen and women are happy.

To be fair, quirks, oddities and complications are to be expected when a county — any country— steps in at the last moment to host a major international sporting event. Morocco had been slated to host the 2015 event, but was stripped of the honor at the last moment. Equatorial Guinea agreed to take on the task, just nine weeks before things got underway.

Throughout the country, police are a strong, visible presence. At every major roundabout in every major population center, armed police are conducting ID checks, even pulling people from cars to check their IDs.

Normally, it would take just 90 minutes to drive between the cities of Bata and Ebebiyin, which is also hosting matches. These days, however, it takes three hours, on account of all the police checkpoints along the way.

And though the matches are themselves festive, with fans chanting, cheering, singing and dancing, there isn’t a lot of spontaneous celebrating or partying in the streets, as is usually the case at major sporting events. By nightfall, streets are empty of festivities.

There’s been lots of griping about visas, as well. Cameroon’s delegation angrily complained to reporters that 20 of their officials had tickets to attend matches, but couldn’t get visas. Many of the visa restrictions stem from government effort to restrict immigrants seeking work or to benefit from the country’s oil wealth.

Soldiers and policemen take their positions at the Estadio de Bata in Bata during the Africa Cup of Nations 2015 tournament. (REUTERS)

Many observers are also praising the government efforts to keep Ebola in check. The government recruited dozens of doctors from Egypt, Cuba and France to advise and conduct preventative measures to block the deadly disease. Hand sanitizer is ubiquitous, with hotel clerks advising people to wash their hands immediately upon checking in.

Banners hanging over streets tout the African football confederation’s efforts at fighting Ebola. And passengers have their temperature taken by foreign doctors the minute they step off planes at airports.

About

Sonny Side of Sports is an energetic and action-packed look at both world and African sports, broadcast on radio, TV and the Internet. Since the show’s creation in 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

The Sonny Side of Sports is broadcast Monday through Friday at 1630 and 1830 UTC/GMT. And on Fridays at 1730 UTC/GMT, Sonny has an expanded 30-minute sports show.

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