African Cup 2015: The Final Chapter

Ivory Coast have been crowned champions of Africa but the event had its fair share of stories.

A police helicopter hovers over Equitorial Guinea fans as they throw objects during the 2015 African Cup of Nations semi-final soccer match against Ghana in Malabo

The curtains have come down on another Africa Cup of Nations. They come around quickly, don’t they?

But this tale had many twists.

AFCON 2015, pulled together in record time by Plan B hosts Equatorial Guinea, overflowed with excitement, drama and controversy – football’s very own ‘Days of our lives’.

We’ve had a quarter-finalist decided after drawing of lots. We saw a referee attacked by players, unhappy crowd pelting their opponents with water bottles, plates, mirrors and rocks. And the world also saw a new champion crowned after a dramatic penalty shoot-out.

It was just a few weeks ago that this oil-rich nation answered CAF’s call to host the tournament when seemingly no-one else wanted it.

And it must be said, in the short time they had to prepare, they organised a decent event.

The remote areas of Ebebiyin and Mongomo also got some action. Their pitches were flown in from Spain on chartered planes in time for kick-off. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Tickets to the games were dished out freely and fans attended in huge numbers.

Ecstacy for the locals

Equatorial Guinea, appearing in only their second Cup of Nations (their debut was as co-hosts in 2012) reached the semi-finals for the first time. Locals were ecstatic.

I won’t go into those disgusting scenes we saw at Malabo Stadium in the hosts’ semi-final against Ghana. And not because CAF said the media were ‘dramatising’ the crowd violence incident, and subsequently ‘perpetuating colonialism’. These were CAF President Issa Hayatou’s words.

I want to fast forward to February 8 because it was the final chapter in this story that is – no, it was – the Africa Cup of Nations 2015.

Ivory Coast were taking on Ghana’s Black Stars, just as they did in 1992 when they last won the title. The Ivorians had come close many times. But this time they reached the final under the leadership of their new man in charge – one of the game’s most colourful characters – Herve Renard.

He broke Ivory Coast hearts three years ago while the coach of Zambia, engineering a famous final victory in Libreville.

This time Renard was intent on earning his team of super stars the trophy that had eluded them for well over two decades.

And he got his happy ending, seeing off Ghana – again in a penalty shoot-out – and becoming the first coach to win the Africa Cup of Nations with two different countries.

For now, it’s the Mighty Elephants who are the toast of African football. And for Ghana it’s another two year wait for their next bite at the cherry. It’s been a recurring theme for Ghana for 33 years.

Football can be an unusually cruel game sometimes.

It’s onwards and forwards to the next edition of the continental competition. Qualifying starts in June but CAF are still looking for a venue.

Anyone keen to host it?

Source: Al Jazeera