Candid with a Former Football Lover

FFL. You lost me a bit with the soccer piece (speaking of a previous post on the African Cup)

Me. So you’re not a fan of the beautiful game?
FFL. It was 14 years ago. Italy broke my heart. I literally felt like dying. I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I had swallowed a watermelon. I couldn’t sleep with butterflies in my stomach, tears running down my cheeks. It was a horrible, gross, undignified feeling.

Me. I find it funny that the only time it seems ok for guys to cry is when their team loses in a sports match.
FFL. So true. Especially when our egos are bruised….soccer was so intimate for me. But I outgrew it because I didn’t want to spend the whole night crying.

Me. But don’t you think you can get to a point where you won’t get so emotional and just enjoy the game?
FFL. I was a big mouth and 95% of what I predicted came true so my confidence increased and my passion was uplifted. Every win felt like a new year. So when we lost to France, I was crushed to pieces. I know the thrill is addictive but the heartbreak is too brutal for me to digest.

Me. I guess it can be both beautiful and ugly. Like everything else though, we need to take away from it the good, and leave the bad…and also like everything else, make sure we don’t go to extremes…

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AFCON 2012

The 2012 African Cup, also known as AFCON 2012 or CAN 2012 ended with a bang on Sunday. The final match between Cote D’Ivoire’s Mighty Elephants and the Zambian Chipolopolo Copper Bullets was nerve racking and intense. After a full 90 minutes of no goals, the two proceeded to extra time. After 120 minutes of play, there was still no goal in sight. A missed penalty from Drogba was an early disappointment. Interestingly enough, it was also against the Copper Bullets that Asamoah Gyan missed a penalty, reminding us of the painful miss during the World Cup against Uruguay. Chipolopolo seem to have the spirits on their side. Penalty shoot-outs ensued. The most nerve racking and intense but also most action packed part of any game. Each side managed to slot in 5 each. There was uncertainty as Zambia’s Mweene blocked a penalty, however it had to be repeated because he moved from the line before the penalty was taken. The retake resulted in a goal. Sixth and seven penalties were both scored by both sides. The eighth penalty was missed by both. Gervinho stepped up to take the 9th penalty which was blocked by Mweene. The final penalty, that of a copper bullet made it to the back of the net. The highly intense game ended with a whooping score of 8-7.

It was an astounding victory. Few had predicted that the copper bullets would shoot down the mighty elephants. Perhaps, as some commented, it was the spirits of the entire team who perished from the fallen aircraft in 1993 off the coast of Gabon that pushed them as far as they’ve come.This was also a first championship for Chipolopolo.

This wasn’t the first surprise for the African Cup. In fact, it was full of surprises:
To begin with, African giants, Egypt who have 7 championships under their belt didn’t qualify, along with Cameroon, Nigeria and South Africa’s Bafana Bafana.

No one anticipated that co-hosts Gabon and Equatorial Guinea would have gone as far as they did, especially considering their qualification was automatic due to their status as hosts. Sudan’s Nile Crocodiles were another pleasant surprise. No-one would have predicted that they would make it to the quarter-finals. The last time they had won a game was 1970. They walked away from the Cup with renewed pride, and rightly so. Zambia’s copper bullets were another astounding breakthrough who have become new favorites. In fact, it was by one copper bullet that Ghana’s black stars were shot down and denied their aspirations to proceed further. Ghana’s black stars were anticipated to go far, and although they qualified for semi-finals, that was as far as they would go. They were also unable to secure 3rd place as Mali’s eagles soared high above the black stars with a score that was a reverse of their previous game with the stars. The score board reflected 2 for Mali and 0 for Ghana. Their previous game had been 2 Ghana 0 Mali.

The 73 that were killed due to unrest in the stadium in Port Said, Egypt drew a grey cloud over the Cup. Moments of silence to respect the dead were dutifully and respectfully carried out at each game after the horrible incident which is the worst in soccer violence since 1996.

Otherwise, the hot, humid and rainy climate in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea didn’t help matters any. Goalies had to deal with slippery balls, players had to cope with slippery pitches. Not to mention that stadiums were pitifully empty throughout the tournament. Why weren’t locals given discounted or even free tickets? Organizers could have given away tickets as prizes on radios, at schools and universities to make sure that the local population benefit and can enjoy having the cup hosted in their countries. Also to boost the atmosphere and morale of the players-I can only imagine how it feels to play surrounded by empty seats. Unfortunately, they don’t hear the cheers and screams of those of us gathered around tv screens and radios to reassure them they’re not playing in vain….

Interesting Facts:

 Sudan is the only team participating in the African Cup to have all its members playing in local leagues.
 Contrastingly, all of the Senegalese players play for foreign clubs.
 The first African Cup consisted of three teams in 1957; Ethiopia, Egypt & Sudan
 Cote D’Ivoire hadn’t conceaded a goal during the entire cup, aside from the penalty shoot-outs.

We won’t have to wait another two years for the next one…it will be hosted by South Africa in 2013 so as not to compete with the World Cup, as well as the European championships….

Enjoy the most beautiful goals of AFCON 2012…

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