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AFCON 2021: The highs and lows of the tournament

(From L) Senegal's forward Sadio Mane, Egypt's forward Mohamed Salah and Egypt's goalkeeper Mohamed Abogabal speak before the penalty kick during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 final football match between Senegal and Egypt at Stade d'Olembe in Yaounde on February 6, 2022. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
AFCON 2021: The highs and lows of the tournament

The AFCON 2021 has come to an end. There was entertainment and emotion. But all was not rosy. Here are the green (we liked it), yellow (we liked it a little) and red (we didn't like it at all) cards of the tournament.

Senegal is the African champion. The Lions of Teranga finally get the right to embroider a star on their jersey. The wait lasted forever. And the conquest has not been a long and quiet one. At the time of counting down to the 2021 African Cup of Nations, Sport News Africa, like an arbitrator, is holding up its cards. Green for our favorite. Yellow for our slight annoyance. And red for our big complaint.

Green card: the Comoros
They have captured the hearts of Africa, the whole (real) world and the virtual world. Not content with qualifying for the second round in their first AFCON, the Coelacanths honored the game. Decimated by Covid-19, the Comoros faced Cameroon in the round of 16 with many of their key players missing. Above all, without a professional goalkeeper. To protect their goal, they called on Chaker Alhadhur, a fullback.

The player from AC Ajaccio (French L2) was not ridiculous, despite the two goals he scored. On the contrary. He was heroic. He won most of his duels with the formidable Cameroonian strikers. Moreover, the captain of the Indomitable Lions, Vincent Aboubakar, top scorer of the tournament (8 goals), remained silent that day.

But the Comoros did not only defend. They managed to find the net and keep the score at 2-1. But they did not just defend, they managed to find the net and keep the score at 2-1, even though they were playing with ten men against eleven from the seventh minute onwards, in addition to the absence of a professional keeper.

Yellow card: the pitches
We were not under any illusions about the quality of the CAN pitches. We knew that, apart from a few rare exceptions, this detail is not the object of particular care in Africa. Most of our countries may build stadiums with modern architecture, but they forget that a football stadium is first and foremost a green rectangle where the ball rolls without obstacles. A proof: the Japoma stadium in Douala. A jewel, but only for the eyes. The footballers who have played there have experienced martyrdom. A real potato field. Their physical integrity was even threatened. The other venues in the competition are better than Japoma, but they did not allow for the best possible football either. This is a point worth reflecting on for future CAF competitions.

Red card: the drama of Olembe
A stampede at the Olembe stadium before the Cameroon vs Comoros round of 16 match (2-1) left at least eight people dead and dozens injured. The tragedy occurred at the time of the control of health passes. Faced with a large number of fans, the police opened the gate at the southern entrance of the stadium. This caused a deadly crowd movement. The Cameroonian authorities conducted an investigation which concluded that it was "human error". Olembe has been suspended for the quarter-finals. CAF, after receiving a report on the circumstances of the tragedy and the safety measures to be taken, will reopen it. It will host a semi-final (Cameroon-Egypt) and the final of the tournament (Senegal-Egypt). This tragic event is the big black spot of the AFCON 2021.

 

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