Let Thursday incident not mar a good final

JOHANNESBURG - The outstanding 3-0 semi-final win by Ghana over bitter hosts Equatorial Guinea on Thursday night has definitely been overshadowed by the violence that rocked that outstanding match.

Few will talk of some breathtaking soccer played by Ghana on their way to the final where they will meet neighbours Ivory Coast.

The talking point will remain the pitch invasion eight minutes before the final whistle by disappointed Equatorial Guinea fans who showed their displeasure, probably at the match officials or their team, by stopping the match for almost 30 minutes.

This is not the way to showcase the African soccer. The fact that the match was being beamed across the globe, has made Africa the laughing stock once again of the global world.

It showed how ill-prepared we are in our disaster management and a few other finer details.

Now the world will use this to demonstrate how Africa remains the most backward continent on the universe and why the continent must be denied high-profile tournaments.

True, that was not the way to behave, an emotional sport as soccer is.

However, Europe and the rest of the world must be reminded that this was not an isolated incident.

For starters the word ‘hooliganism’ in football emanated from Europe where fans threatened to make the sport ungovernable.

In 1989, 96 people died in Hillsborough, Sheffield in England before the famous FA semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest and a further 766 others were injured.

And looking into some of the nastiest football crowd incidents across the globe, the most horrible are found in Europe in countries like Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Italy and England.

In another incident involving Liverpool; in 1985, 39 soccer fans were killed when a wall in Brussels’ Heysel Stadium collapsed ahead of the European Cup final after the English fans had gone berserk. The incident resulted in the long ban of British clubs from taking part in Europe.

So what happened on Thursday night, while not a good occurrence to market our game, is far from being a massive embarrassing incident.

Lest we forget, in the year 2000 during a World Cup qualifier, 13 fans died at the National Sports Stadium after fans rioted following Delron Buckley’s second goal for Bafana Bafana which put South Africa 2-0 up midway through in the second half.

And cases of crowd invading the pitch in disapproval were, until recently, a common thing here in Mzansi.

But the football governing body CAF must shoulder a lot of blame regarding the general conduct during the ongoing AFCON 2015 tournament.

The officiating has been pathetic to say the least. Take for instance, the handling of the match between Tunisia and Equatorial Guinea and then the penalty incident on Thursday between Ghana and the hosts.

Tunisia went on to insult and almost assaulted the match officials evoking the ire of Caf.

Despite being asked to apologise, the North Africans have refused to do so and there is now an interesting stand-off between the North Africans and head-honchos in Cairo.

Despite the conundrum, Sunday’s final between the Black Stars of Ghana and Ivory Coast should be a cracker.

This will be a repeat of the 1992 final in the Senegalese capital of Dakar where the two squared up in a titanic final which the Abedi Pele captained side was favoured to win.

As fate would have it, Pele who was then the reigning African Player of the Year was suspended from the final and after the match had ended goalless after extra time, went into penalties.

Ivory Coast went on to win the marathon shoot-out 11-10 as the Black Stars failed to add to their four Afcon titles, a record at the time (Egypt has since won 7 titles to date whole Cameroon and Ghana have four each).

It was also Ivory Coast’s only African title but tomorrow, 8 February they stand on the brink of adding to that single title.

Dismissed by many as master of choking on big tournaments, Ivory Coast has always flattered to deceive in previous tournaments.

In 2012, with stars like Didier Drogba, they were sensationally beat 8-7 on penalties by Zambia in the final that most predicted they would easily win.

They came into this tournament clear favourite to win this edition but the Black Stars led by Abedi Pele’s sons are ready to spoil the party once again.

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