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.



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.

Quarterfinal Matches Get Moved Due to Bad Pitch

Posted January 28th, 2015 at 6:21 pm (UTC-4)
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Vendors like Ahmadou, a Cameroonian man selling shwarma outside the stadium in Mongomo, aren’t happy about the decision to move the quarterfinal matches. (VOA/Abdushakur Aboud)

MONGOMO, Equatorial Guinea _ Good news for teams scheduled to play on the fraying pitch in the stadiums of Mongomo and Ebebyin. Bad news for the vendors who have been cashing in on fans attending Africa Cup of Nations matches.

The Confederation of African Football, organizers of the premier football tournament for the continent, announced Tuesday that quarterfinal matches would be moved due to the state of the pitches in the two cities’ stadiums.

With Equatorial Guinea stepping in at the last minute to host the tournament, the stadiums had to have turf specially flown in from Spain, just weeks before the beginning of the tournament. But the turf hasn’t taken well, and grounds keeping staff have had to walk the pitches at halftime to replace segments that have been torn out by play.

Some organizers have also complained the stadiums are far too small to host the quarterfinal matches. And there’s been grumbling from teams about the state of accommodations in the distant cities.

Instead, the upcoming games will be played in the capital, Malabo, and the bustling port city of Bata.

While competing teams will be happier, vendors are clearly not. Amadou, a Cameroonian man selling shwarma to game goers, said he had rented his kiosk at a rate of $200 for three days. Now he’s out that investment.

“This horrible, and unfair for us, they didn’t inform us about all this,” he told VOA.

They Do Have an Award For That…Trophies

Posted January 27th, 2015 at 6:28 pm (UTC-4)
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The best African teams go through a rigorous campaign to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations, only to face an even tougher assembly of teams in the official tournament. The winning team must endure potential upsets and beat defending champions to obtain continental bragging rights.

And what better way to display one’s glory than to proudly lift a trophy!

With AFCON having been host to three different trophies throughout the years, we revisit the stories behind these trophies of the past, and present.

1. Abdelaziz Abdallah Salem Trophy

The original trophy, made of silver, was named after the first CAF president, Egyptian Abdelaziz Abdallah Salem. Ghana became the first team to keep this trophy indefinitely after becoming the first winners of three Nations Cups in 1978.  

The Ghanaian football team, holding the Abdelaziz Abdallah Salem Trophy, in 1965.


2. Trophy of African Unity/African Unity Cup

Named the Trophy of African Unity or the African Unity Cup, AFCON’s second trophy was given by the Supreme Council for Sports in Africa to the CAF prior to the 1980 tournament. This trophy’s design included a cylindrical piece with the Olympic rings, laid over an engraved map of the continent. It sat on a squared base and had futuristic triangular handles. Awarded from 1980 to 2000, it was permanently placed in the hands of the Cameroonian National Team that hoisted the trophy for the third time in 2000.

 photo bd3a2b57-712b-4a24-ba7a-a8a690b4574a_zpsfcfa472d.jpg

The Trophy of African Unity being lifted by South African captain Neil Tovey after it was presented to him by the late President Nelson Mandela in 1996.


3. The Cup of Nations

In 2001, the third trophy was revealed, a gold-plated cup designed and made in Italy by the same company that created the many trophies for FIFA World Championships. Egypt was the victor this time; winning the gold-plated cup indefinitely after they became three-time champions in 2010, in an unprecedented achievement by winning their titles consecutively! Unlike previous winners, Egypt was awarded a full size replica of the trophy for their efforts, with CAF deciding to permanently keep the Cup of Nations as a staple of the tournament.

 photo fbe88d6d-92c9-46be-879c-b8dc26ff6592_zpsc2696295.jpg

Egypt’s captain Ahmed Hassan, center, looks up as he holds the trophy flanked by CAF president Issa Hayatou.



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.

Algeria, Ghana Advance to Knockout Round

Posted January 27th, 2015 at 5:00 pm (UTC-4)
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Mandla Masango of South Africa challenges Ghana’s Afriyie Acquah (L) during their 2015 African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match in Mongomo.

Algeria and Ghana advanced to the knockout round of the Africa Cup of Nations Tuesday, with the Desert Foxes winning a decisive 2-0 victory over Senegal Tuesday and the Black Stars beating South Africa 2-1.

Ghana ended the group stage atop Group C on goal differentials, even though Algeria is currently the top rated African side in the world FIFA rankings.

Algeria went ahead early, with a free kick in the 11th minute by Madjid Bougherra that went to an unmarked Riyad Mahrez who deftly sent a right-footed shot into the bottom right corner. Nabil Bentaleb added a second at the 82nd minute with a left-footed shot.

Ghana, meanwhile,came came from behind to send the South Africans packing. South Africa struck first, with Mandla Masango putting the Bafana Bafana ahead at the 17th minute with a 25-yard volley and spooking the Black Stars.

But John Boye gave hope to Ghana with a goal at minute 72, and an assist Marseille winger Andre Ayew, who then went on to score the decisive goal with a header at the 83rd minute on a cross from Baba Rahman.

Algeria and Ghana will take on the winner and runner-up of Group D on Sunday.



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.

AFCON’s Group Of Death Reaches Climax

Posted January 27th, 2015 at 2:43 pm (UTC-4)
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BATA, Equatorial Guinea _ Billed as the toughest section at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations when the draw was made, Group C reaches its denouement on Tuesday evening.

Everything is still up for grabs as group leaders Senegal take on pre-tournament favorites Algeria in Malabo while Ghana and South Africa clash in Mongomo.

There are myriad different scenarios as all four sides bid to advance to the knockout stages, although Alain Giresse’s Senegal know that a draw against Algeria will take them through, while a win will ensure that they go through to the last eight as group winners.

The Lions of Teranga are looking to qualify for the tournament knockout stage for the first time since 2006, when they reached the semi-finals in Egypt.

Algeria, who won 2-1 in the 1990 semi-finals in the only previous meeting of the sides at the competition, know a win will take them into the last eight.

However, Christian Gourcuff’s side, Africa’s top-ranked team, will also progress with a draw if South Africa beat Ghana in the other match.

Meanwhile, in Mongomo, Ghana will go through with a win, while a draw will suffice provided Algeria don’t beat Senegal.

South Africa must win and hope Senegal beat Algeria, although they would also go through in the case of an Algeria win provided they can overturn their goal difference deficit to Senegal.


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.

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