11 February 2008

The African Cup of Nations

For the last couple of weeks I've been watching the Cup of Nations in Ghana. Living with Ghanaian friends, I am in a fairly partisan crowd ("The Egyptians are cheats and thieves") but we usually give credit where it is due, and begrudgingly acknowledged that Ghana didn't look good. Still, there was lots of good offensive play in the tournament as a whole.

Here are a few observations from the tournament:

1) I was excited to see my friend and former drumming teacher Francis performing in the opening ceremonies. I looked but didn't find him during the post-final awards ceremony, perhaps because the victorious Egyptians had taken over the drums.

2) Ghana's Black Stars were to be put up in some nice digs - the Golden Tulip or a similar high class hotel. With demand for tournament accommodation rising, though, the hotel found higher-paying customers and the Black Stars were left without rooms.

3) During the tournament, the Confederation Africaine de Football (CAF) selected Didier Drogba of Cote d'Ivoire as the African Player of the Year, and summoned him to neighbouring Togo to collect his award. It was a strange decision, since all the players, many CAF officials, and international media were already in Ghana. Given that Cote d'Ivoire's base was in Takoradi, an eight hour journey from Lome, Drogba hoped to send someone to pick up the award on his behalf. CAF promptly announced that Drogba could not have the Ballon d'Or trophy, and Drogba said he had no interest in future CAF awards.

4) In the Cameroon-Ghana semifinal, a bizarre event took place in the match's dying minutes. With Cameroon up 1-0, the medics came onto the field to attend to an injured Indomitable Lion. While they were doing so, another Cameroon player ran over and shoved one of the medics to the ground, earning a red card (and missing the final). Nobody really knows why Andre Bikey lashed out, including his victim.

5) I like the tournament ball.

6) Finally, the closing ceremonies of the tournament (after Egypt's 1-0 win over Cameroon) featured some unfortunate medal errors. First, the ribbons on the medals were broken so the first few fell to the ground after they were put around the Cameroonians' necks. They handed out the rest. When the Egyptians came, CAF turned out to be one medal short, so the coach gave his to the goalie.

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