The current host is in line with the trend. The Cameroonian dictator, 39, is Paul Biya, 88, who spends long hours each year in Europe, either in luxury hotels or luxury hospitals, receiving treatments that most Cameroonians can’t even dream of. And this despite the fact that the civil war has been raging since 2017. At the tournament’s opening ceremony, local organizers staged what was essentially a grand election rally in favor of Mr. Biya, who rode an armored four-wheel-drive vehicle instead of the stadium. sang: “Paul Biya, our father, the president of the nation. Paul Biya is always ahead.”
But, as is often the case in contemporary Africa, more encouraging developments are taking place on the ground.
That 1996 tournament where Nigeria was eliminated, for example, was a triumph for my native South Africa, who celebrated their release with a stunning tournament victory. In 2012, Zambia’s motley national team, rebuilt after a 1993 plane crash that killed 18 players along with members of the coaching staff, faced clear favorites Ivory Coast in the final to claim a stunning victory after 120 goalless minutes and nine rounds. penalty.
This year’s tournament witnessed drama. It was fun to watch the bright performances of teams representing small countries, including the Gambia, Cape Verde and Malawi. The Comoros, the fourth largest country in Africa, defeated four-time Afcon winner Ghana 3-2 on Tuesday.
Sierra Leone especially struck me. He was grouped with powerful Algeria and the Ivory Coast. In their first game of the first round on January 11, Sierra Leone faced defending champions Algeria, who also won the Arab States Cup last December and were chasing the national team’s record for most games unbeaten. (The record is held by Italy, which played 37 games; Algeria scored 35 before the match in Sierra Leone.) Algeria has Riyad Mahrez, the star of Manchester City, the richest club in the English Premier League, and most of his teammates play in European clubs . major leagues.
Sierra Leone, meanwhile, is ranked 108th by FIFA, the body that governs world football, right between Estonia and North Korea. The team’s most recognizable player is Kei Kamara, a 37-year-old journeyman who made his name in Major League Soccer in North America and now plays in Finland.
It should have been easy for Algeria. Instead, the brave Sierra Leone brought Algeria to a goalless draw. Sierra Leone goalkeeper Mohamed Nbali Kamara, 22, who plays for the East End Lions in Freetown, the country’s capital, held back whatever the Algerians threw at him. When he was awarded Man of the Match after the game ended, he broke in tears.