AFCON Organizers Demote Referee, Fine Tunisia $50,000

Posted February 4th, 2015 at 4:48 pm (UTC-4)
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BATA, Equatorial Guinea _ Tunisians players upset at a disputed penalty during their quarterfinal loss to Equatorial Guinea badly damaged a locker room at a stadium, Africa Cup tournament organizers said, as they fined the Tunisian football federation $50,000.

Referee Rajindraparsad Seechurn is surrounded by security as players of Tunisia confront him after losing their quarter-final soccer match of the 2015 African Cup of Nations against Equatorial Guinea in Bata. (REUTERS)

In a statement issued late Tuesday, the Confederation of African Football also said they had demoted the referee at the center of the furiously disputed match on Saturday, which advanced Equatorial Guinea to the semifinals.

During the match, Mauritian referee Rajindraparsad Seechurn awarded a late penalty to Equatorial Guinea that tied the score against Tunisia. Javier Balboa then sealed victory for the home team in the 102nd minute.

At the final minute, as local fans erupted in celebrations, ugly scenes erupted on the pitch, as Tunisian players accosted tournament officials, and then tried to attack the referee.

The confederation said it was fining Tunisia $50,000 for “insolent, aggressive and unacceptable behavior” of the players and officials during Saturday’s game.

The confederation also said it was suspending Seechurn for six months for “poor performance” and removed from confederation’s “A” list of referees.

The confederation’s referee committee expressed regret for the “the poor performance of the referee during the match, including an unacceptable failure to maintain calm and ensure proper control of the players during the match.”

Seechurn could not be located to comment on the penalty. The Tunisian Football Federation did not make an immediate comment on the announcement.

The end of the quarterfinal match saw the ugliest scenes to date at the 2015 tournament, which for the most part has been conducted without major incident.

Tournament organizers also fined Equatorial Guinea $5,000, for not doing more to prevent fans from running into the pitch, like what happened during Saturday’s match.

 

With Kabila, Song and Dance, DRC Preps For Semifinal Against Cote D’Ivoire

Posted February 3rd, 2015 at 4:47 pm (UTC-4)
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BATA, Equatorial Guinea _ The Democratic Republic of Congo takes on Cote D’Ivoire in the Africa Cup of Nations 2015 semifinals on Wednesday. By all accounts, the Leopards are the underdogs compared with the Les Elephants.

But they’re lacking in spirit, optimism or support, thanks to a visit from DRC President Joseph Kabila and some exuberant fans.

Check it out:

 

Debate Continues Over Disputed Penalty That Paved Way for Equatorial Guinea Win

Posted February 2nd, 2015 at 2:02 pm (UTC-4)
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Where Equatorial Guinea fans are ecstatic, Tunisian fans, players, coaches and others are furious.

The result that sent Equatorial Guinea to the semifinals and Tunisia homeward continued to roil the tournament.

During the Saturday match, a late penalty awarded by Mauritian referee Rajindraparsad Seechurn resulted in Equatorial Guinea tying the score. Javier Balboa then sealed victory for the home team in the 102nd minute.

At the final minute, as local fans erupted in celebrations, ugly scenes erupted on the pitch, as Tunisian players accosted tournament officials, and then tried to attack the referee.

Tunisia’s coach Georges Leekens has called for the suspension of Seechurn, saying in 45 years of football, he has never experience something like this.

It is a “scandal,” he said.

Bata Wadii El Jari, the head of the Tunisian Football Federation, submitted his resignation to the tournament organizing committee in protest of what happened to his team.

Equatorial Guinea’s coach, Esteban Becker, meanwhile, said in an interview with VOA that the decision should be respected.

“We need to respect the decision on the field and not turn law into our own hands. It was a penalty given and sent us to over time. The Tunisians had 30 minutes to win if they played their game,” he said. “Instead they played defense and we played attack which enable us to win.”

Tournament organizers CAF have not issued any statement about the Saturday match.

 

 

Did you watch the match? Was the penalty justified? Was Tunisia robbed of victory? Let us know your thoughts.

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Cote D’Ivoire Trounces Top-rated Algeria; Ghana Pounds Guinea

Posted February 2nd, 2015 at 11:09 am (UTC-4)
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Before the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations tournament started earlier this month, Wilfried Bony had been newly minted as the best paid African footballer in history, with his signing by Manchester City.

His performance leading Les Elephants to a 3-1 victory over Algeria shows why.

Ivory Coast’s Wilfried Bony fights for the ball with Sofiane Feghouli of Algeria during their quarter-final soccer match of the 2015 African Cup of Nations in Malabo. (REUTERS)

Bony scored twice Sunday to silence The Desert Foxes– Africa’s top-rated team– and take Cote D’Ivoire into the semifinals of the Africa Cup of Nations.

Bony’s 26th minute header was answered with a left-footed howler by Algeria’s Soudani in the 51st minute.

Another header by Bony in the 68th minute, on a set piece cross from Yaya Toure put Cote D’Ivoire in the lead. And Gervinho, back after serving a two-game suspension for an opening match red card, sealed the win in extra time.

The Elephants will face the Democratic Republic of Congo in one of the semifinal matches on Wednesday.

The other semifinal match-up will feature hometown favorites Equatorial Guinea playing Ghana, who decisively shutout Guinea with a 3-0 win on Sunday.

Christian Atsu was the hero for the Black Stars, scoring once in the 4th minute and the second in the 61st minute. Atsu’s first was a thing of beauty with a backheeled cross from Andre Ayew that Atsu nailed home from 8 yards out.

A clearly outplayed Guinea didn’t make things easier for themselves when defender Baissama Sankoh botched a clearance in the 44th minute and Kwesi Appiah ran clean though to slot the ball home.

 

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.

Atsu! God Bless You!

Posted February 2nd, 2015 at 10:29 am (UTC-4)
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For a tournament that has delivered some stunning long range efforts in the past, AFCON 2015 had been very dry so far.

Low scoring draws had defined the group stages of this tournament, but fortunately for viewers the playoffs are telling a completely different story.

Enter Christian Atsu, the 23-year-old Chelsea player who plies his trade as loanee with Everton FC, who decided that Ghana’s game against Guinea Sunday was the perfect opportunity to score the goal of the tournament.

Cutting from the right side of Ghana’s offense Atsu unleashed an unstoppable curler into the top left corner of Guinea’s goal.

Ka-POW!

 

With a daring and confident attitude like that, Atsu’s future is guaranteed to be bright.

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 Advances With 2-1 Win over Tunisia

Posted February 1st, 2015 at 2:51 pm (UTC-4)
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Tunisia's Syam Ben Youssef challenges Equatorial Guinea's Wahbi Khazri iduring their quarter-final soccer match of the 2015 African Cup of Nations in Bata

Tunisia’s Syam Ben Youssef challenges Equatorial Guinea’s Wahbi Khazri iduring their quarter-final soccer match of the 2015 African Cup of Nations in Bata. (REUTERS)

BATA, Equatorial Guinea _ A controversial penalty at the 90th minute gave Equatorial Guinea the tying goal in the Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals, and then an opening for an eventual 2-1 victory over Tunisia Saturday.

In front of delirious hometown fans, the match was without question the roughest of the 2015 tournament to date, with Tunisia seeing two of its players carried out of the field because of injuries and one from Equatorial Guinea. Tunisia ended up with four yellow cards, the most to date.

From the beginning to the end, the Nzalanga Lightning forced the Tunisians to play a defensive game. But Tunisia’s Ahmed Akaichi struck first in the 70th minute.

Victory looked to be the Carthage Eagles’ until the 91st minute when referee Rajindraparsad Seechurn awarded a penalty to Ali Maaloul, after being fouled by Ivan Bolado. Javier Balboa netted the goal for Equatorial Guinea.

Balboa then scored the winner for the Lightning in the 102nd minute with a 25-yard kick.

The final whistle then saw angry skirmishes as both sets of officials and players and security getting involved. Some Equatorial Guinea fans ran onto the pitch to celebrate, and some fans threw bottles at at the Tunisia players.

The BBC reported that some fans may have shown lasers in Tunisia goalkeeper Mathlouthi’s eyes during Balboa’s penalty kick.

Equatorial Guinea will face Ghana or Guinea in the first semifinal on Thursday.

DR Congo Gets Semifinal Berth with Comes-From-Behind Win Over Congo

Posted January 31st, 2015 at 3:20 pm (UTC-4)
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Democratic Republic of Congo’s Mbokani celebrates his goal during their quarter-final soccer match of the 2015 African Cup of Nations against Congo in Bata

BATA, Equatorial Guinea _ Congo scored two goals in six minutes at the beginning of the 2nd half, but archrivals Democratic Republic of Congo stormed back with four goals, leading the Red Devils to a 4-2 victory and a berth in the Africa Cup semifinals.

Dieumerci Mbokani, who plays for FC Dynamo Kyiv, netted the first goal and the winning goal for DR Congo in stoppage time.

Congo’s coach Claude “White Witch” Leroy complained that a sideline referee delayed a substitution that allowed DRC to score the go-ahead goal in the 81st minute.

In the other quarterfinal matchup Saturday, home team Equatorial Guinea was taking on Tunisia.

 

 

Life in Equatorial Guinea Grinds To Halt As Country Roots for Home Team

Posted January 31st, 2015 at 12:22 pm (UTC-4)
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BATA, Equatorial Guinea _ Life in Equatorial Guinea ground to a halt Saturday, as much of the country prepared to watch the home team take on Tunisia in the Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals.

Equatorial Guinea fans celebrate after winning the Group A soccer match against Gabon in the African Cup of Nations in Bata

Equatorial Guinea fans celebrate after winning the Group A soccer match against Gabon in the African Cup of Nations in Bata. (REUTERS)

Equatorial Guinea last appeared in the quarterfinals in 2012, but for many, this year’s showing has even greater significance. The team had failed to qualify for the tournament initially, but by virtue of the country’s stepping in to host at the last minute, ended up getting to play in the end.

Team coach Esteban Becker, of Argentina, was hired just two weeks before the tournament started, and many expected the Nzalang Nacional, the lowest ranked team in Cup, to falter in group play.

Instead, Becker’s team eked out a second place finish in Group A, behind Congo, making it to the elimination rounds.

“We are prepared for going to the finals and to make history. If we win it will be a major victory for the country, and everything is going to be crazy,” Becker told VOA.

Many of the government’s ministers, along with President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, traveled to the commercial capital Bata, on the mainland, to watch the evening match, and police were out in force throughout the city. National flags were flying on almost every car in town with restaurants, clubs, and citizens emblazoned in red T-shirts: the colors of the team.

“We win or lose, we are going to have a party,” Mama Nema, owner of the well-regarded Bata restaurant Corisquenia, told VOA.

Drama is surrounding the other quarterfinal match-up Saturday between rivals Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo. DRC coach Jean Florent Ikwange was an assistant coach to Congo’s coach Claude Marie Le Roy until he was fired a year ago.

Controversial AFCON Lottery Advances Guinea, Sends Mali Home Grumbling

Posted January 29th, 2015 at 12:17 pm (UTC-4)
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BATA, Equatorial Guinea _ Guinea beat out Mali for the right to advance to the knockout round in the Africa Cup of Nations tournament Thursday, after organizers held a controversial tie-breaker lottery.

Guinea’s head coach Dussuyer reacts during their 2015 African Cup of Nations Group D soccer match against Ivory Coast in Malabo. (REUTERS)

After three qualifying matches for Group D, only Cote D’Ivoire emerged as a clear winner, with 5 points to advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament.

Guinea and Mali, however, wrapped up their qualifying efforts with a 1-1 tie on Wednesday, making them equal second-place finishers in the group,with identical point rankings.

Tournament organizers then drew lots on Thursday to determine which team would advance. Guinea won that right.

But several members of the AFCON organizing committee said there was deep unhappiness and disagreement about whether drawing lots was the best way to proceed. One member, who asked not to be named since he was not authorized to share internal discussions, said world football governing body FIFA had pushed the tournament to instead decide the game by the traditional method: overtime and then a penalty shoot-out.

“We had a number of meetings before the matches and most of us agreed that we should decide the outcome on the field but not at the able but the executive (committee) would not agree,” the member told VOA.

Officials from the Confederation of African Football refused to comment immediately on the controversy, but scheduled a news conference Friday.

Officials at FIFA did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The two team’s coaches also criticized the decision, telling the BBC it was unfair​.

“Mali do not deserve to be eliminated in this way, just as we do not,” Guinea coach Michel Dussuyer was quoted as saying.

Guinea plays Ghana on Sunday.

With 1-1 Tie, Mali and Guinea’s Fate Hangs With Lottery

Posted January 28th, 2015 at 7:04 pm (UTC-4)
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Mali and Guinea battled to a draw in the Africa Cup of Nations Wednesday, leaving the fate of the two Group D rivals in the hands of a highly unusual lottery.

Guinea took the lead in the 14th minute with Kevin Constant coolly converting a penalty resulting from a handball by Mali’s Salif Coulibaly.

Mali themselves earned a penalty less than two minutes later when Guinea’s Baissama Sankoh was booked for a handball. Unfortunately for Mali, captain Seydou Keita’s penalty was saved by Guinea’s keeper.

Mali finally equalized in the 46th minute when Modibo Maiga headed Abdoulaye Diaby’s cross. Neither team was able to score after that.

Mali’s Yacouba Sylla (C) challenges Guinea’s Kevin Constant during their 2015 African Cup of Nations Group D soccer match in Mongomo.

With both teams having drawn all of their group games, and having equal numbers of points and goals, their destiny now lies in the hands of the organizing committee who will draw lots on Thursday to decide who goes through.

The other Group D match, meanwhile, was more decisive, with Cote D’Ivoire notching the first and only win of Group D’s qualifying games. Max Gradel’s screamer in the 35th minute was all that was needed to settle the game, with Cameroon, and especially midfielder Edgar Salli, missing two clear cut chances.

It was a fair result for Ivory Coast, who avoid the lottery, the same process that evicted them from the tournament in 1988, the last time the it was used.

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.

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