Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ghana Beats Nigeria; Reaches ACN Final for First Time

Wow! Great to see Ghana make the African Cup final. And very unexpected. This is a mish-mash of a team. They're missing all their stars! It wasn't pretty, and Nigeria definitely had enough chances to put this game away, but kudos to the young Ghanaian side for some tenacious defending. I'll be in Ghana on Monday morning, so hope to celebrate a Black Stars ACN victory then.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

28 Years Later...

Algeria and Angola's 0-0 draw resulted in Mali's elimination from the ACN, despite "Les Aigles" beating Malawi 3-1 in their final match and having a superior goal difference to both Algeria and Angola, as head-to-head results prevailed.

Algeria and Angola knew that a draw would put both teams through, and clearly played for that result. Algeria coach Rabah Saadane admitted he told his team to "take it easy" during the game. "We had the rules and knew that if Mali won, we would go through. So we said to our players: 'Now stop. Either score or draw - absolutely minimum,'" he said.

Mali lodged a protest with the CAF, complaining that the sides purposely played out a goalless draw to ensure progress.

It's been 28 years since Algeria was similarly eliminated from the 1982 World Cup in one of the World Cup's most disgraceful incidents ever.

Monday, January 11, 2010

My Memories of Cabinda

Few people have heard of Cabinda, the oil-rich Angolan enclave where gunmen allegedly belonging to the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) attacked the bus carrying Togo's national football team, killing three people and seriously injuring several others.

I've not reported on the conflict, but I did visit Cabinda about 10 years ago. Chevron flew me on a private jet from Luanda, the Angolan capital, to its base in Cabinda, from where the company took me by helicopter to one of the many oil rigs stationed offshore. I remember getting the PR spiel from the Chevron spokesman, who said the company was heavily investing in education, health and social services in Cabinda. Turns out that "heavy investment" amounted to about $60,000 a year. At the same time Chevron had just announced a new, multi-billion dollar oil exploration project in the region.

From the little I saw of Cabinda out of the helicopter window -- Chevron wouldn't let me visit outside the base because it said it couldn't guarantee my security -- the place looked just like much of the rest of Angola: desperately poor. I do remember the Houston-based, American supervisor of the oil rig bragging about having the best frozen yoghurt in Africa on board the rig. Not sure how he could know that since he also said he'd never been off the Chevron base, but I have to admit it was pretty tasty.

Don't Buy Into the Africa Pessimism

The Togo bus attack is obviously a complete disaster for Angola, whose government had hoped its successful hosting of the African Cup of Nations would help polish the country's war-shattered image.

Predictably, the Africa doomsayers are also pointing to the tragic event as evidence that Africa is not ready to host the world's largest sporting event, the World Cup, this year, never mind that it's being held in a country a thousand miles away from Angola that is not battling any separatist insurgency or has been specifically targeted by terrorists. Africa is Africa.

Danny Jordaan, head of South Africa's 2010 World Cup organizing committee, moved quickly to quell fears about his country's ability to provide adequate security for the event. "Why are people suddenly applying double standards? When there are ­terrorist attacks in Europe, do we hear about the 2012 Olympics being under threat? No. Angola and South Africa are two separate geographical areas, two separate countries. Besides, the African Nations Cup is not the World Cup. We cannot be called to account for the security arrangements of Angola, which is far removed from South Africa," he said.

Sadly, his and other voices of reason will probably fall on deaf ears. Now, any negative incident related to the security of the tournament, no matter how minor, will be viewed as proof that South Africa is not up to the task. I'm not suggesting that the Togo bus attack was a minor incident. What I'm saying is that we'll have a couple of drunken Englishmen robbed on the wrong side of the tracks during the Cup and immediately South African security has failed. The narrative has been set.