Gabon football has received a big boost ahead of co-hosting next month’s 28th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations tournament with neighbor Equatorial Guinea.
The Gabonese are being described as the surprise team of the recently concluded African Under-23 Football Championship in Morocco.
Gabon upset host Morocco, 2-1, in the final in Marrakech, to win the trophy. This youth competition doubled as a qualifying event for next year’s Olympic men’s football tournament in London, so in addition to celebrating the victory over the Moroccans, the Gabonese smiled over earning their first-ever Olympic soccer berth.
Also advancing to London next year and the Olympic men’s football tournament are Morocco and the third-place finisher, Egypt, while the fourth-placed team, Senegal, goes into a play-off against an Asian side, with another Olympic berth at stake.
The victory over Morocco also marked Gabon’s first-ever African football title. Tijjani Lawal, writing from Kano, Nigeria, at the Sonny Side of Sports Facebook page, says, “Congratulations to Gabon for this wonderful achievement. Can the Gabonese senior team achieve such a feat at the Nations Cup next month? Only time will tell.”
The Nations Cup history books tell us Gabon’s best showing at Africa’s premier football tournament came in 1996, when the team reached the quarterfinals in South Africa. As we look ahead to next month’s African football jamboree, the Gabonese will surely have the crowd on their side for their first round matches in the capital, Libreville. And the under-23 team’s championship performance in Morocco could be a sign of bigger things to come.