Aliou Cisse: The 2002 World Cup Hero Who Broke Senegal’s AFCON Jinx


Senegal’s head coach Aliou Cisse holds a Senegalese flag as he celebrates after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 final football match between Senegal and Egypt at Stade d’Olembe in Yaounde on February 6, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

Twenty years ago, Senegal’s golden generation of players, including ex-Liverpool star, El-Hadji Diouf, lost the Africa Cup of Nations crown to Cameroon. Aliou Cisse, who now coaches the team, missed the decisive kick in the penalty shootout as Cameroon won a second consecutive AFCON trophy in Mali.

Months later, the Teranga Lions bounced back from that heartbreaking defeat to stun France at the 2002 World Cup, beating the then-holders by a lone goal in their first game. Led by the iconic Bruno Metsu, they raced to the quarter-final of the Korea/Japan tournament but a ‘golden goal’ in the last eight saw them crash out to Turkey in their first World Cup outing.  Cisse was the captain of that golden generation that took the world by storm in the early 2000s.

Despite being perennially tipped as favourites since then, the West African side had failed to win the continent’s most treasured football medal. In 2019, they fell to Algeria in the final, the closest they have gone since the defeat to Cameroon.

“All of that is in the past,” Cisse said about the twin final defeats ahead of Senegal’s final match against Egypt on Sunday. “We have a different squad that is even better than 2002 and better than 2019. We will try to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes as in these finals, and we are very excited to have the chance to put the past behind us.”

Born in Senegal’s southwestern town of Ziguinchor on March 24, 1976, Cisse’s family moved to France when he was nine. They lived in a Paris suburb called Champigny-sur-Marne. His childhood dream of playing for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) became a reality as he featured for the Parisians between 1998 and 2002. The player later wore the colours of English sides, Birmingham City and Portsmouth, featuring as a defensive midfielder and occasionally as a centre back. Unlike his days with the Teranga Lions, his club career never caught the limelight as he retired at Ligue 2’s Nîmes in 2009.

READ ALSO: Senegal Declares National Holiday To Celebrate AFCON Win

A Winning Mission

Senegal's players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 final football match between Senegal and Egypt at Stade d'Olembe in Yaounde on February 6, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP
Senegal’s players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 final football match between Senegal and Egypt at Stade d’Olembe in Yaounde on February 6, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

The former midfielder then delved into management and quickly worked for his badges before he got his big break as the assistant coach of the U-23 side between 2012 and 2013.  He later became the head coach between 2013 and 2015. In 2015, he replaced Frenchman Alain Giresse as the Teranga Lions coach after they crashed out of that year’s AFCON at the group stages.

Saddled with the responsibility of building a formidable team after one of the lowest moments of Senegalese football, the bespectacled Cisse had his work cut out.

“I have a lot of ambition for Senegal, but it can mostly be summed up in one word: win and win again,” he said in a televised interview following his appointment.

Under his guidance, the Teranga Lions fortunes took a new twist. Apart from helping the team become the best African side in the FIFA ranking, Cisse set up a flourishing side which allowed star men, Sadio Mane, Edouard Mendy, Idrissa Gueye, Kalidou Koulibaly to play to their strengths. Aside from qualifying the team for the 2017 AFCON in grand style by winning all six qualifiers – a first in the country’s football history – he also led the Teranga Lions to the World Cup in 2018 to humble his critics.

READ ALSO: Dakar Explodes With Joy As Senegal Crowned African Champions

In his first AFCON outing, Senegal were sent out in the quarter-final stage of the competition after a penalty shootout loss to eventual winners, Cameroon. At the 2018 World Cup, the second in the nation’s history, Cisse’s men were hard hit by ill-luck after they went out of the group stage on disciplinary grounds. Tied on the same points and goal difference with Japan, the Africans left the competition having gotten six yellow cards, two more than the Blue Samurai.

After the disappointment of Russia, Senegal set their sights on the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. Like previous tournaments, they were one of the favourites and lived up to that tag when they reached the final of the competition. But for the second time, the star-studded Lions of Teranga were beaten by Algeria.

“The last time Senegal reached this point was in 2002. The experience of big matches, we want to be here more often. We’re getting closer to winning,” the distraught coach said after Algeria defeated them in the final in Egypt, the second time in that tournament. “The team has been making progress these past five years. A final is decided by fine margins and we deserved better tonight.”

Indeed, the Senegalese deserved better but started the 2021 campaign on a cautious note, playing what many tagged as “dirty football” as they gathered momentum in Cameroon. In the group stage, they managed just one goal (a Mane late penalty against Zimbabwe) in three games to top the chart. Injuries and COVID-19 also hit as they played their first few matches without key players like Chelsea’s Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly; midfielder, Nampalys Mendy, and gifted winger, Ismaila Sarr.

Heading into the knockout phase with five points, the 2002 runners-up defeated Cape Verde 2-0 before seeing off Equatorial Guinea in the next round of clashes. They, however, showed their strong title credentials and depth when they swept away Burkina Faso 3-1 in the semi-final with Cheikhou Kouyate of Crystal Palace and Sarr coming off the bench to score.

“We know we can do better, but we know we’re getting stronger,” Koulibaly said after the quarter-final win over Equatorial Guinea at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaounde. “I think that after the first and second games, or even the group games, nobody saw us there, but today we can be happy.”

‘We Waited Long’

Supporters celebrate in Dakar on January 06, 2022, after Senegal won the Africa Cup of Nation (CAN) final against Egypt in Yaounde, Cameroon. (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

 

In Senegal, the former midfielder is seen as more than a coach to the players. He was a fans’ favourite and was expected to deliver the nation’s first AFCON title. That wish materialised when former Southampton star, Mane, scored the decisive kick at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde, leaving fans back home in an explosion of joy. A festive atmosphere erupted in the capital city as thousands of supporters trooped to the Independence Square, near the presidential palace, to celebrate the historic moment. Supporters were drowned in the sound of car horns, vuvuzelas, and firecrackers at the square. The Senegalese flag was hung from buildings, on vehicles, and on sidewalks. 

Fans hugged each other amid bonfires outside the streets of Dakar and across the country.

“I’m happy. It’s the best day of my life,” a 25-year-old car washer, Modou Ba, said.

“We waited a long time. (The cup) is finally here. We really needed it,” an accountant, Seydou Nourou Diop, said after the final whistle.

President Macky Sall, who had declared a national public holiday hours after the win, had earlier praised the team for bringing pride to the nation.

“African champions. What a game! What a team! You did it. Beautiful moment of football, beautiful moment of communion and national pride. Congratulations to our heroes,” he tweeted on Sunday night.

He had also cancelled his travel plans to welcome the triumphant men who are billed to hit Dakar at 1300 GMT Monday.

For Cisse, the AFCON win is a dream come true.  His former teammate, Salif Diao had quoted the coach as saying “If I don’t win it as a player, I will win it one day as a coach”.  But beyond the craving for personal glory, Sunday’s victory is the ultimate gift for a football-mad nation that fought hard to land the elusive title.

Senegal Declares National Holiday To Celebrate AFCON Win

Senegal's players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 final football match between Senegal and Egypt at Stade d'Olembe in Yaounde on February 6, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP
Senegal’s players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 final football match between Senegal and Egypt at Stade d’Olembe in Yaounde on February 6, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

Senegal’s President Macky Sall declared Monday a public holiday to celebrate the national football team’s first ever African Cup of Nations crown following their victory against Egypt, public television announced.

Sall, who had been due to visit Comoros at the end of a trip that took in Egypt and Ethiopia, cancelled the last leg in order to welcome the triumphant Lions on their return to Dakar at 1300 GMT Monday, RTS said.

READ ALSO: Senegal Win AFCON 2021, Claim First Continental Title

Led by Liverpool star Sadio Mane, Senegal overcame Mohamed Salah’s Egypt 4-2 in a penalty shoot-out at Sunday’s final in Cameroon. The game had finished goalless after extra time.

After two previous final defeats in 2002 and 2019, Senegal finally claimed their first Cup of Nations title.

The Lions will be decorated by Sall on Tuesday at the presidential palace in Dakar, RTS television said.

“The president of the republic declared Monday a public holiday, a paid day off, following the brilliant victory of the Lions,” RTS said, citing a presidential decree.

 

AFP

Remarkable Comeback Against Burkina Faso Gives Cameroon Third Place At AFCON

Cameroon's forward Karl Toko Ekambi celebrates their victory after the penalty shoot-out at the end of the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 third place football match between Burkina Faso and Cameroon at Stade Ahmadou-Ahidjo in Yaounde on February 5, 2022. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP
Cameroon’s forward Karl Toko Ekambi celebrates their victory after the penalty shoot-out at the end of the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 third place football match between Burkina Faso and Cameroon at Stade Ahmadou-Ahidjo in Yaounde on February 5, 2022. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

 

Hosts Cameroon finished third at the Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday after wiping out a three-goal deficit against Burkina Faso to draw 3-3, then win 5-3 on penalties.

Ambroise Oyongo scored the decisive penalty in Yaounde as the Indomitable Lions atoned for missing three kicks when losing a semi-final shootout against Egypt 48 hours ago.

Goals by Steeve Yago and Djibril Ouattara either side of an Andre Onana own goal gave the Burkinabe a 3-0 lead with 20 minutes remaining.

READ ALSO: Falconets Spank Cameroon, Close In On FIFA World Cup Ticket

Stephane Bahoken reduced arrears and then substitute Vincent Aboubakar netted on 85 and 87 minutes to force a shootout.

The Cup of Nations final between Senegal and Egypt, with Liverpool stars Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah on opposite sides, will be staged on Sunday in Yaounde (1900 GMT).

Cameroon coach Toni Conceicao made nine changes to the team that lost on penalties to Egypt after extra time just two days ago at Stade Olembe, the main Yaounde stadium.

The Portuguese retained only goalkeeper Andre Onana and midfielder Samuel Oum Gouet, who was replaced at half-time by leading tournament scorer Aboubakar.

Burkina Faso boss Kamou Malo altered five of the team that started a 3-1 semi-final loss to Sadio Mane-inspired Senegal 24 hours before Cameroon played.

Two of them were enforced with injured goalkeeper Herve Koffi replaced by Farid Ouedraogo while suspended midfielder Adama Guira gave way to Ismahila Ouedraogo.

The countries had met three times before in the flagship African tournament with Cameroon winning twice, including in the opening match of this Cup of Nations, and drawing the other.

It was the third bronze medals play-off for both teams with each winning and losing once in a fixture that Africa has retained while Europe has ditched.

Similar goal

Farid Ouedraogo made saves in quick succession from stand-in captain Oyongo and Jean Onana that led to him needing treatment for an injury as Cameroon threatened to score first.

Burkina Faso barely looked menacing before taking the lead on 24 minutes when Yago crept in at the far post to half volley an Issa Kabore cross into the roof of the net.

It was a similar goal to that scored by Burkinabe Gustavo Sangare in the opening match on January 9 before Aboubakar converted two penalties to give Cameroon maximum points.

The Stallions doubled their lead in the final minute of regular first half time when Andre Onana let a Kabore cross slip from his grasp into the net for an own goal.

Initially, the referee disallowed the goal because he incorrectly believed the ball had crossed the line, but the VAR official convinced him to change his decision.

Burkina Faso, who edged Ghana to finish third in their last Cup of Nations appearance five years ago, added a third goal just four minutes into the second half.

Aston Villa forward Bertrand Traore crossed from the right and a powerful header from Djibril Ouattara gave no chance to Andre Onana, who is set to move from Ajax to Inter Milan in July.

Bahoken pulled one goal back for the Indomitable Lions on 71 minutes when the Burkinabe failed to clear a corner and the forward fired into the net from point-blank range.

The goal triggered a remarkable comeback with Aboubakar netting twice in quick succession as full-time approached to force a penalty shootout.

 

AFP

Egypt Beat Cameroon On Penalties To Reach AFCON Final

Egypt's forward Mohamed Salah (C) celebrates with teammates after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 semi-final football match between Cameroon and Egypt at Stade d'Olembe in Yaounde on February 3, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP
Egypt’s forward Mohamed Salah (C) celebrates with teammates after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 semi-final football match between Cameroon and Egypt at Stade d’Olembe in Yaounde on February 3, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

Mohamed Salah’s Egypt are through to the final of the Africa Cup of Nations after beating hosts Cameroon 3-1 on penalties at the end of a goalless 120 minutes in Yaounde on Thursday.

Goalkeeper Mohamed Abou Gabal was the Egyptian hero, saving from both Harold Moukoudi and James Lea-Siliki in the shoot-out at the Olembe Stadium before Clinton Njie blazed wide with Cameroon’s last chance to keep their dream alive.

Salah, usually the fifth penalty-taker for his country, was not needed as Egypt advance to a final showdown against Senegal back at the Olembe Stadium on Sunday.

That will see Salah come up against his Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane, with the Pharaohs chasing a record-extending eighth African crown while Senegal continue their search for their first title.

“We are very proud of our achievement today but there is one more step to go,” said Egypt assistant coach Diaa al-Sayed, speaking after coach Carlos Queiroz was sent off during the match.

Cameroon see their hopes of AFCON glory on home soil ended in cruel fashion, and they must still get through a third-place play-off against Burkina Faso this weekend.

“We are sad, and so are 27 million Cameroonians, but that’s football,” said coach Toni Conceicao.

Just 10 days had passed since the disaster at the stadium when eight people were killed and 38 injured prior to Cameroon’s last-16 win against the Comoros.

The Confederation of African Football had temporarily shut the venue pending an investigation into the events, stripping it of a quarter-final before giving it the green light to reopen here.

Many fans were clearly put off returning to Olembe so soon after the tragedy, with just 24,371 present in the 60,000-seat venue — many more could have attended even with Covid restrictions limiting crowds to 80 percent of capacity.

The lack of fans was a shame in what is a football-mad country, and Cameroon and Egypt are the two most successful sides in Cup of Nations history — the Indomitable Lions’ tally of five titles is bettered only by the Pharaohs.

Queiroz Sees Red


Gambian referee Bakary Gassama (R) gives a red card to Egypt’s Portuguese head coach Carlos Queiroz (L) during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 semi-final football match between Cameroon and Egypt at Stade d’Olembe in Yaounde on February 3, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

The Egyptians had a score to settle as they sought revenge for their 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Indomitable Lions in the 2017 final, when Vincent Aboubakar came off the bench to score the winner.

An impact substitute then, Aboubakar is now Cameroon’s captain and the top scorer at this tournament with six goals.

So confident was he before this game that he dismissed the threat of Salah in a radio interview, and the Egyptian captain was peripheral here, too often an isolated figure on the right wing.

He did, however, pass up a glorious chance to open the scoring early in the second half when a dreadfully short back-pass by Martin Hongla sent him clear. Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana came out to make the save.

Aboubakar also struggled to make an impact, although the hosts had dominated the first half and almost went ahead in the 18th minute when Michael Ngadeu rose to head a corner off the woodwork.

Samuel Oum Gouet also saw a long-range piledriver clip the left upright in the second half.

Meanwhile, the Egyptians went down at every opportunity, regularly looking to eat up time and frustrate their opponents.

Usually they eventually stood up again unscathed, and they ended the game with 11 players but coach Queiroz –- who was already missing one of his assistants to a ban — was shown a red card at the end of normal time for losing his temper on the touchline.

This was Egypt’s third extra time in as many knockout ties, after they needed penalties to beat the Ivory Coast in the last 16 and an extra half-hour to overcome Morocco in the quarter-finals.

Extra time passed with penalties always seeming inevitable, and Aboubakar was the only successful taker for Cameroon as they go out.

AFP

Burkina Faso Defeat Tunisia Again As Hero Ouattara Turns Villain

Burkina Faso's forward Dango Ouattara (R) shoots to score his team's first goal during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 quarter final football match between Burklina Faso and Tunisia at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 29, 2022. Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP
Burkina Faso’s forward Dango Ouattara (R) shoots to score his team’s first goal during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 quarter final football match between Burklina Faso and Tunisia at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 29, 2022. Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP

 

Dango Ouattara scored on the stroke of half-time as 10-man Burkina Faso completed a hat-trick of Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final victories over Tunisia with a 1-0 win in Garoua on Saturday.

Hero Ouattara turned villain eight minutes from time when a yellow card for elbowing Ali Maaloul was changed to a red after the Botswana referee checked the touchline VAR monitor.

Burkina Faso held on to repeat 1998 and 2017 last-eight triumphs over Tunisia and advance to a semi-finals showdown with Senegal or Equatorial Guinea in Yaounde on Wednesday.

READ ALSO: Red Cards Mar 2021 AFCON Round Of 16 Games

Success for the Stallions came five days after the landlocked west African country was plunged into political uncertainty when President Roch Marc Christian Kabore was ousted in a military coup.

“I’m very emotional. Allow me to dedicate this win to our people who are being tested by current events,” said Burkina Faso coach Kamou Malo.

“The Burkinabe people will always stand up, just like the team. We put in the time today and we want to go all the way in this competition.”

Earlier, hosts Cameroon beat giant-killers Gambia 2-0 in Douala and await the winners between Egypt and Morocco on Sunday in the other semi-final.

Burkina Faso started with captain and Aston Villa forward Bertrand Traore among 12 substitutes while an injury ruled out vice-captain and central defender Issoufou Dayo.

In the absence of the first and second-choice skippers, long-serving Belgium-based goalkeeper Herve Koffi led a country that came closest to glory in 2013 when finishing runners-up to Nigeria.

After being hard hit recently by a coronavirus outbreak, Tunisia were back to near full strength with regular captain Wahbi Khazri among those returning to the starting line-up.

Despite the presence of former Premier League forward Khazri, the Carthage Eagles were captained by veteran forward Youssef Msakni, who is appearing at a Cup of Nations tournament for the seventh time.

The Burkinabe Stallions kicked off boosted by the knowledge that they won all three previous Cup of Nations quarter-finals, including two against Tunisia.

Tunisia had been much less successful at the same stage of the flagship African tournament, winning just four of 10 last-eight matches.

More menacing

After Tunisia dominated the early exchanges, Burkina Faso gradually matched them at the Stade Roumde Adjia in the northwestern city.

Cyrille Bayala came close midway through the opening half when he found himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Bechir Ben Said, who stuck out his left leg to foil the Burkinabe.

Khazri then stung the fingers of Koffi with a free-kick from well outside the box which the goalkeeper pushed over the crossbar to concede a corner.

Burkina Faso were looking the more menacing side and Djibril Ouattara should have done better as half-time approached with a close-range shot, which was aimed directly at Ben Said.

The deadlock was broken three minutes into first-half added time with Dango Ouattara putting the Stallions ahead.

A pass from the centre circle found the midfielder from French Ligue 1 club Lorient on the right flank and he proved too quick for Oussama Haddadi before checking his run and firing into the net.

Tunisia coach Mondher Kebaier reacted to falling behind by taking off Haddadi at half-time and bringing on Ali Maaloul, who plays his club football with African giants Al Ahly of Egypt.

Saudi Arabia-based Naim Sliti was also introduced for the second half in place of Anis Ben Slimane on the right side of midfield.

As Tunisia pushed forward in pursuit of an equaliser they were exposed at the back early in the second half, but unmarked Blati Toure fired straight at Ben Said.

Maaloul is not only among the most polished left-backs in Africa, but also a set-piece expert and Koffi did well to push away a low free-kick from the Tunisian at the expense of a corner.

AFP

Toko-Ekambi Goals Fire Cameroon Into Cup Of Nations Semi-Finals

Cameroon’s forward Karl Toko Ekambi (R) celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 quarter final football match between Gambia and Cameroon at the Japoma Stadium in Douala on January 29, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

Cameroon are through to the semi-finals of their Africa Cup of Nations after Karl Toko-Ekambi’s double fired them to a 2-0 win over Gambia on Saturday in the hosts’ first game at the tournament since the deadly crush in Yaounde.

French-born Lyon striker Toko-Ekambi scored two goals in the space of eight minutes at the start of the second half, leading to scenes of ecstatic celebration in Douala.

His goals were just reward for Cameroon, who completely dominated against a Gambian side appearing in their first ever Cup of Nations.

READ ALSO: Red Cards Mar 2021 AFCON Round Of 16 Games

“They sat back and made it difficult for us and their goalkeeper made some great saves in the first half but we came back out in the second half, got the goals and saw it out, and now we are proud to be in the semi-finals,” said Toko-Ekambi.

Cameroon march on to a last-four showdown with Egypt or Morocco as they continue their quest for a sixth continental title, while reaching the quarter-finals was an extraordinary performance for Gambia.

“We lost today against the new champion of Africa,” said their coach, Tom Saintfiet.

“We hope to bounce back in future AFCONS. We learned a lot and we will be stronger in the future.”

The host nation’s first and only visit to the country’s economic capital in the tournament meant there was always going to be a frenzied atmosphere in this chaotic city as fans descended on the 50,000-capacity Japoma Stadium.

The Indomitable Lions had not taken to the field since Monday’s tragic crush prior to their game against the Comoros in Yaounde, a disaster which left eight dead and 38 injured.

Security stepped up

Authorities here massively stepped up their security operation around the ground in an attempt to avoid any repeat.

Army officers with rifles stood atop buildings lining the route to the stadium while vast numbers of police patrolled the streets and watched over entrances.

On the eve of the game Cameroon’s sports minister announced a raft of measures aimed at avoiding a repeat of the Olembe disaster.

Those included stopping the distribution of free tickets and banning children under 11 from attending games.

The minister also urged supporters to arrive earlier, and the gates at Japoma opened five hours prior to kick-off.

That meant the deafening noise of vuvuzelas filled the air well before the Cameroon team arrived, dancing their way from the bus to the changing room, and only stopped momentarily for the silence in memory of the crush victims.

Coronavirus restrictions put in place for the AFCON have limited crowds to a maximum of 60 percent of capacity but that is raised to 80 percent when the host nation play, and the official attendance here was 36,259.

Cameroon were the overwhelming favourites against tiny Gambia, although Toni Conceicao’s side had laboured to beat the Comoros, another AFCON debutant and who were forced to play an outfield player in goal.

There might have been some doubts in the home camp at half-time after they completely bossed the first 45 minutes without getting the breakthrough.

Vincent Aboubakar, the Cameroon captain and the tournament’s top scorer, sent one header just wide shortly after the half-hour mark and then saw another attempt from point-blank range swatted away by Gambian goalkeeper Baboucarr Gaye.

Yet the opening goal came just five minutes into the second half, the excellent right-back Collins Fai crossing and Toko-Ekambi nodding down into the far corner.

Out came the vuvuzelas, and the crowd were on their feet again on 57 minutes as the impressive Martin Hongla sent a low ball across goal for Toko-Ekambi to finish emphatically for his fifth goal at this AFCON.

Aboubakar, with six, is the only player with more and together they have scored all of Cameroon’s goals so far.

Pending confirmation from the Confederation of African Football, Cameroon are now due to return to Olembe for their semi-final on Thursday, and possibly for the final next Sunday too.

 

AFP

CAF President Blames Closed Gate For Stampede Tragedy In Cameroon

Confederation of African Football (CAF) President Patrice Motsepe is seen during a press conference on January 25, 2022 at Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium in Yaounde. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP
Confederation of African Football (CAF) President Patrice Motsepe is seen during a press conference on January 25, 2022 at Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium in Yaounde. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

 

African football supremo Patrice Motsepe says an “inexplicable” decision to keep an entry gate closed was responsible for the deadly crush which killed eight people before an Africa Cup of Nations match in Cameroonian capital Yaounde on Monday.

“That gate was supposed to be open because if it was open they would have walked through, and for inexplicable reasons it was closed,” the Confederation of African Football (CAF) president said at a press conference on Tuesday.

“If that gate was open as it was supposed to, we wouldn’t have had this problem we have now, this loss of life. Who closed that gate? Who is responsible for that gate?”

READ ALSO: Mane Ends Goal Drought As Senegal Overcome Nine-Man Cape Verde

Eight people died, including one child, and 38 were injured as fans attempted to enter the Olembe Stadium where the hosts Cameroon were playing the Comoros, according to figures released by the country’s health ministry.

A baby was reportedly one of those trampled by the crowd and was in a “medically stable” condition, the health ministry added.

Communications Minister Rene Emmanuel Sadi said that of 38 people injured, seven were seriously hurt.

Motsepe called for a probe after Cameroon’s President Paul Biya earlier ordered an investigation “so that all light is shed on this tragic incident,” according to Sadi.

‘Complete chaos’

The tragedy happened at gates where final ticket checks are supposed to take place.

“It was when the police opened the gates that people fell and others trampled on top of them,” said Professor Andre Omgbwa Eballe, director of the Olembe district hospital who attended the match.

“I saw the bravery of the Cameroonian people. People were resuscitating others, doing mouth to mouth, otherwise there would have been more deaths,” he told AFP TV.

One man in his 30s who was caught in the crush told AFP that it was “complete chaos” at the entrance to the stadium as supporters without tickets tried to force their way in.

“I arrived a quarter of an hour before kick-off. I had my ticket, but all of a sudden a group of people without tickets arrived and tried to force their way through and we found ourselves pushed up against the fences,” said the supporter, who gave his name as Stephane.

“I was crushed up against a woman who said she couldn’t breathe. Eventually the gate gave in and I was able to get through, but it was complete chaos.”

Quarter-final match moved

Motsepe said the Cup of Nations quarter-final due to be played at the Olembe Stadium on Sunday will be switched to the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium, also in Yaounde.

He added that CAF had not considered cancelling the rest of the tournament but had contemplated the idea of postponing the last-16 ties scheduled for Tuesday.

Instead the tie between Senegal and Cape Verde and Morocco’s game against Malawi were both given the green light, with a moment’s silence observed before each match.

Players of all teams wore black armbands while advertising boards around the pitch at the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium, where Morocco played Malawi, displayed the message: “Condolences to families of departed spectators”.

Crowds at the 60,000-seat Olembe Stadium — and at all venues — had been limited to 60 percent of capacity for the tournament because of the pandemic, but the cap is raised to 80 percent when Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions play.

Mohamed Salah, the Liverpool star at the Cup of Nations with Egypt preparing for their quarter-final against the Ivory Coast in Douala on Wednesday, said his team’s thoughts were with the victims.

“We are sorry about what happened yesterday, and hopefully the injured people will come back home safe,” Salah said.

Cameroon was initially meant to host the Cup of Nations in 2019, but the event was moved to Egypt over concerns the country’s stadiums were not ready, as well as question marks over security.

Overcrowding at football matches around the world has resulted in scores of deaths.

Thousands of fans in the Egyptian capital Cairo in 2015 attempted to enter a stadium to watch a game, triggering panic as police fired tear gas and birdshot, resulting in 19 dead.

In April 2001, 43 people died in a stampede at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park during a game between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.

In chaotic scenes at last year’s European Championship final between England and Italy in London, some 2,000 ticketless fans gained access to Wembley, with an independent review finding a tragedy was only narrowly averted.

AFP

Mane Ends Goal Drought As Senegal Overcome Nine-Man Cape Verde

Senegal's forward Sadio Mane (L) is challenged by Cape Verde's defender Steven Fortes during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 round of 16 football match between Senegal and Cape Verde at Stade de Kouekong in Bafoussam on January 25, 2022. Pius Utomi EKPEI / AFP
Senegal’s forward Sadio Mane (L) is challenged by Cape Verde’s defender Steven Fortes during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 round of 16 football match between Senegal and Cape Verde at Stade de Kouekong in Bafoussam on January 25, 2022. Pius Utomi EKPEI / AFP

 

Liverpool star Sadio Mane ended a 243-minute Senegal goal drought by scoring in a 2-0 win over nine-man Cape Verde in a fiery Africa Cup of Nations last-16 clash in Bafoussam on Tuesday.

The goal came on 63 minutes after the islanders had goalkeeper Josimar ‘Vozinha’ Dias and midfielder Patrick Andrade sent off.

Mane was forced to leave the field soon after breaking the deadlock as his face was swollen following a collision with Vozinha, which led to the second red card.

READ ALSO: Eight Dead In Cameroon Stadium Stampede

Bamba Dieng, who replaced Mane, added a second goal two minutes into added time after a breakaway left a single Cape Verde defender facing two Senegalese attackers.

Senegal, seeking to win the flagship African competition for the first time after twice finishing runners-up, will meet Mali or Equatorial Guinea on Sunday in the quarter-finals.

“We expected Cape Verde to be very defensive and that is what transpired,” said Senegal coach and former star Aliou Cisse.

“I told my players to be extremely patient and they followed instructions perfectly. Even when Cape Verde had 11 players, we dominated the match.”

Before the kick-off, the teams and match officials stood still and silent in memory of the eight people who died in a crush at Olembe Stadium in Yaounde on Monday before Cameroon defeated the Comoros.

Cape Verde welcomed back head coach Pedro ‘Bubista’ Brito, who had to watch the group stage in the island nation as he recovered from coronavirus.

In the opposite dugout was Cisse, a Cup of Nations runner-up as a player in 2002 and as a coach in 2019.

Having failed to score in their last two group matches against Guinea and Malawi, Senegal almost took the lead 40 seconds into the match through Mane.

Major blow

Following a move down the left flank, the ball ran loose in the box and the reigning African Footballer of the Year unleashed a thunderbolt that cannoned off the far post.

Senegal seemed determined to end their goal drought early in the match and continually put pressure on the Cape Verde defence at Stade Kouekong in the western Cameroon highlands.

Cape Verde suffered a major blow on 21 minutes when Andrade was sent off for stamping on the leg of Pape Gueye.

The Algerian referee initially produced a yellow card, then upgraded it to a red after watching replays of the incident on the touchline VAR monitor.

Despite being numerically disadvantaged, Cape Verde contained Senegalese attacks until Mane came close to breaking the deadlock six minutes before half-time.

A slick exchange of passes inside the box set Mane free, but Vozinha and Steven Fortes combined to block his attempt to score.

As if facing one of the tournament title favourites with 10 men was not sufficiently difficult, Cape Verde were reduced to nine men when Vozinha was sent off 12 minutes into the second half.

The goalkeeper and Mane collided as they chased a long pass and after going to the monitor again, the referee brandished his red card to the goalkeeper, who had left the field suffering from concussion.

Marcio da Rosa, who plays in the Portuguese third division, took over as goalkeeper with forward Garry Rodrigues taken off.

Senegal were quick to take advantage of having two extra outfield players as Mane scored with a superbly placed shot into the roof of the net when a corner was only partially cleared by Nuno Borges.

AFCON 2021: Sunday Oliseh Tips Cameroon As Credible Contenders

Oliseh lauds Cameroonian side as genuine contenders for AFCON 2021
File photo of former Super Eagles coach, Sunday Oliseh

 

Super Eagles legend, Sunday Oliseh, has named the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon as genuine title contenders for the AFCON 2021.

Cameroon last won the title in 2017 after defeating Egypt at Gabon, courtesy of goals from Nicolas Nkoulou and Vincent Aboubakar.

Oliseh who is no stranger to winning titles himself, after lifting the trophy in 1994, showered his admiration and praise for the Cameroonian side via his Twitter handle.

READ ALSO: Brentford Offer Christian Eriksen Six-Month Contract – Reports

“Tall, strong, solid, aggressive, compact hosts & relatively well organized! ” the former Super Eagles team coach wrote.

Despite a flaw of being non-progressive at times in their play, that didn’t deter the 47-year-old from pronouncing them as credible contenders for the AFCON title.

“The indomitable Lions team, though at times static & not so nimble-footed, is definitely, in my opinion, a credible title contender and Fun to watch with Aboubakar. AFCON is heating up!!,” he said.

 

The Indomitable Lions qualified to the knock-out stages of the competition after an emphatic 4-1 victory over the Ethiopian side.

Cameroon are vying for a 6th AFCON title, one short of 7-time winners Pharaohs of Egypt.

AFCON 2021: Chaos As Referee Ends Mali -Tunisia Match In 89th Minute


Mali’s midfielder Amadou Haidara (L) and Mali’s defender Hamari Traore celebrate the goal scored by Mali’s forward Ibrahima Kone (R) during the Group F Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Tunisia and Mali at Limbe Omnisport Stadium in Limbe on January 12, 2022. Issouf SANOGO / AFP

 

Tunisia coach Mondher Kebaier said he had “never seen anything like it” after the referee in his side’s Africa Cup of Nations opener against Mali on Wednesday blew the final whistle before the game had been completed.

Zambian official Janny Sikazwe signalled the end of the match and a 1-0 win for 10-man Mali in the coastal town of Limbe with the clock showing 89 minutes and 47 seconds.

The Tunisians furiously protested that there were several minutes of stoppage time still to play.

Read Also: [PHOTOS] One Year After Postponement, AFCON 2021 Kicks Off

With confusion reigning, Mali coach Mohamed Magassouba was giving his post-match victory press conference when an official entered the room under the stand to indicate that the game would restart and that three minutes still remained.

Mali returned to the field but the Tunisians did not re-emerge, and so the referee brought the game to a definitive conclusion when the Malians kicked off again.

“It is a difficult situation to deal with. The referee also blew with five minutes left in the first half and then he blew after 89 minutes, denying us practically seven or eight minutes of added time,” claimed Kebaier, whose team had an extra man at the end after Mali’s El Bilal Toure was sent off.

“His decision is inexplicable. I can’t understand how he made his decision and we will see what happens now.”

However, the Tunisian team’s refusal to return to the pitch could expose them to further sanctions from the Confederation of African Football.

“He blew for full time and asked us to go to the dressing room, so the players were in their ice baths and then he asked us to come back out,” Kebaier added.

“In 30 years in this business, I have never seen anything like it.”

The astonishing scenes overshadowed what should have been a proud day for Mali, who won the Group F game thanks to Ibrahima Kone’s penalty just after half-time.

Tunisia had the chance to equalise but Wahbi Khazri’s spot-kick at the other end was saved with the game in the final quarter of an hour.

“These are administrative questions. We were told to go back on the pitch because the game was not finished,” said Magassouba.

“Unfortunately the opposition team did not want to come back out and the final whistle was blown.”

The day’s other Group F match, between Mauritania and Gambia at the same venue, was delayed by 45 minutes from its scheduled 1600 GMT start due to the earlier confusion.

AFP

PHOTOS: One Year After Postponement, AFCON 2021 Kicks Off

Dancers perform during the opening ceremony of the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football tournament at Stade d’Olembé in Yaounde on January 9, 2022. Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP

 

Fifty years after last hosting the Africa Cup of Nations, Cameroon kick off the continental showpiece on Sunday targeting a sixth title while hoping the spectre of the coronavirus does not overshadow the tournament.

It was all shades of bright and colorful at the opening event of the games which had stalled for a year, over COVID-19 concerns.

[Read Also] FULL LIST: Date And Time For Nigeria’s AFCON 2021 Group Games

See photos from the opening day of the event below.

AFCON 2021: NFF Drops Osimhen, Three Others, Invites New Players

FILE PHOTO: Victor Osimhen

 

Napoli striker Victor Osimhen will not be a part of the Super Eagles team to play at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has announced.

Also, Watford attacker Emmanuel Dennis, Cyprus-based Abdullahi Shehu, and center-back Leon Balogun will not be part of the squad.

The NFF in a statement released on Friday gave reasons why the players will not be part of the team and named new players that have been called up as replacements.

READ ALSO: Osimhen Tests Positive For COVID-19 Again

Osimhen was dropped from the squad after he tested positive for coronavirus, while he is also yet to recover fully from the facial injury he suffered in November.

New players called up as replacements include  Henry Onyekuru, Peter Olayinka, Tyronne Ebuehi, and Oluwasemilogo Ajayi.

The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations is scheduled to hold January 2022 in Cameroon.

 

 

 See the full statement by NFF below…

 

Health concerns, injuries constrain changes to Nigeria’s final 28-man list for AFCON 2021

Lively forward Victor Osimhen’s positive test to the coronavirus pandemic a couple of days ago and injury to the versatile Abdullahi Shehu have constrained changes to Nigeria’s final 28-man list for the 33rd Africa Cup of Nations starting in Cameroon next weekend.

 

The goalkeeping department is untouched, but the forced exclusion of Cyprus –based Shehu, who can slot easily into sections of the defence and midfield, has made way for hard-as-nails right back Tyrone Ebuehi, now with Venezia in the Italian Serie A, and England –based Oluwasemilogo Ajayi returns to the group for Africa’s flagship football championship following injury to centre-back Leon Balogun. Ajayi can also play as a midfielder.

 

Osimhen’s absence paves way for Greece-based Henry Onyekuru who was also at the last finals in Egypt. In-form rapid raider Emmanuel Dennis, whose English Premiership club is baring fangs, has been excused to provide room for Czech Republic –based forward Peter Olayinka.

 

The 33rd Africa Cup of Nations finals will end on 6th February.

 

SUPER EAGLES’ SQUAD FOR 33RD AFCON CAMEROON 2021

 

Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (AC Omonia, Cyprus); John Noble (Enyimba FC); Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa); Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

 

Defenders: Chidozie Awaziem (Alanyaspor FC, Turkey); Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Oluwasemilogo Ajayi (West Bromwich Albion, England); William Ekong (Watford FC, England); Olaoluwa Aina (Torino FC, Italy); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany); Tyrone Ebuehi (Venezia FC, Italy); Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto, Portugal); Olisa Ndah (Orlando Pirates, South Africa)

 

Midfielders: Frank Onyeka (Brentford FC, England); Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Galsgow Rangers, Scotland); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Chidera Ejuke (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Kelechi Nwakali (SD Huesca, Spain)

 

Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Fatih Karagumruk, Turkey); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain); Henry Onyekuru (Olympiacos FC, Greece); Moses Simon (FC Nantes, France); Sadiq Umar (UD Almeria, Spain); Taiwo Awoniyi (Union Berlin, Germany); Odion Jude Ighalo (Al-Shabab Riyadh, Saudi Arabia); Alex Iwobi (Everton FC, England); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Peter Olayinka (SK Slavia Praha, Czech Republic)