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Sports News of Monday, 11 February 2008

Source: By Brian Homewood

Reuters Blasts Ghana2008 Organization

Below is an article by Reuters on the African nations cup

.... Organisers fail to match quality on the pitch

ACCRA, Feb 11 - The African Nations Cup provided top quality football and drama on the field yet, as the tournament grows in stature, its organisers appear stuck in a time warp.

This year's competition, which ended with Egypt beating Cameroon 1-0 Sunday's final, boasted more big name players than ever before, was televised around the world and produced the impressive tally of 99 goals in 32 matches.

But the organisation remains unchanged from the days when it was an exotic sideshow and European club coaches, who today complain bitterly about losing their African players for one month, had not even heard of it.

On the pitch, Ghana set the tone by beating Guinea with a stunning late goal from Sulley Muntari in the opening game and that was followed by defending champions Egypt producing a 4-2 win over Cameroon.

Then came the upsets as Angola recovered from a goal down to beat Senegal 3-1 and Guinea overcame Morocco 3-2.

The quarter-finals saw Ghana produce a memorable comeback to beat arch-rivals Nigeria 2-1 while Ivory Coast turned on the style in a 5-0 demolition of Guinea, only to come unstuck in the semi-final when they lost 4-1 to Egypt.

Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o scored five goals, making him the most prolific scorer in the tournament's history with 16, while Angola's Manucho burst onto the scene with four.

Egypt's Essam Al Hadari produced world-class goalkeeping and his team mate Hosni Abd Rabou was outstanding in midfield.


Sadly, much of the action was played out in empty stadiums, the organisers having failed to entice the local public to games involving teams other than the hosts.

Embarrassingly, they even failed to fill the stadium for the final.

It is one of many age-old problems which appear to continue unsolved as the tournament threatens to become too big for its own good.

Although stadiums, two of them newly-built with Chinese help, were impressive, infrastructure away from them was almost non-existent.

South Africa's players, used to five-star accommodation and led by Brazilian World Cup-winning coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, were dispatched to a modest two-star hotel in Tamale where goats roamed freely in the dusty streets outside.

Cameroon coach Otto Pfister was furious at the way his team were kept waiting around as they attempted to travel the 380 kilometres from Kumasi to Tamale.

"This is a total disaster. I don't know if this is the Nations Cup or a tournament for children," he said.

There were occasional moments of slapstick such as when Cameroon defender Andre Bikey was sent off for pushing a first aid worker -- and missed the final as a result.

Senegal coach Henryk Kasperczak quit after two games, even before his team had been eliminated, while captain El Hadji Diouf, goalkeeper Tony Sylva and Ousmane Ndoye appeared unperturbed by their 3-1 defeat by Angola.
They were dropped for their final group match against South Africa after breaking a late-night curfew.


Two teams, Namibia and Benin, said they had been approached by an unidentified man who offered them money to throw games. The Confederation of African Football said they had launched an investigation and handed a dossier to police.

Perhaps the most embarrassing moment for local organisers came when the coach of their own team, Ghana's Claude LeRoy, hit out at the state of the pitch at the main Obene Djan stadium in Accra.

"In more than 20 years in Africa, it's the worst pitch I've ever seen in my career," he said.

The Frenchman also touched a nerve by implying that the tournament was still made for local dignitaries rather than players and supporters.

"The first thing is not the quality of the armchair in the VIP room but the quality of the pitch," he said. (Editing by Rex Gowar)

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