Quarterfinal Matches Get Moved Due to Bad Pitch

Posted January 28th, 2015 at 6:21 pm (UTC-4)
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CAN_Ahmadou_Shawarma_s_Stand_Mongomo

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.

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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.

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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 AFCON

Posted January 26th, 2015 at 5:55 pm (UTC-4)
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A Sonny Side of Sports insight and analysis into Africa’s premier football tournament:

Sonny Young
Since 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.

Rain Dampens Zambia-Cape Verde Match… And Neither Side Advances

Posted January 26th, 2015 at 4:53 pm (UTC-4)
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Zambia and Cape Verde battled to a rain-soaked goal-less draw Monday, sending Zambia, the 2012 champions, homeward.

The tie resulted in both teams at the bottom of Group B, meaning Cape Verde also failed to advance.

Democratic Republic of Congo’s Jeremy Bokila scores a goal against Tunisia during their Group B soccer match of the 2015 African Cup of Nations in Bata. (REUTERS)

In the other Group B match-up, however, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tunisia drew at 1 apiece, giving both sides a point, top placement at the head of the group and advancement to the knockout round.

Tunisia’s Ahmed Akaichi scored first, with a 31st minute header from the box to the bottom right corner.

Congo’s Jeremy Bokila responded with a left-footed howler from the center of the box in the 66th minute, off a headed pass from Dieumerci Mbokani.

Tunisia will take on host Equatorial Guinea in their first knockout round match on Saturday, while DR Congo takes on Congo.

 

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.

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.

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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