AFCON 2012 FINAL - THE GODS WERE PARTIAL!
Posted: Feb 19, 2012
AFCON 2012 waited till the very last day and the very last match to produce it’s best parts. It was like a great movie - full of excitement, suspense and drama. After 120 minutes, the final two teams could not be separated. Then the gods intervened. ‘Arrogant’ football analysts had to be taught a lesson in humility. Those that stuck out their necks and made predictions that did not suit the mood of the final chapter of the championship had to be humbled. For example, I had proclaimed before the start of the championship that I had peeped into the future and seen Ghana and Ivory Coast in the finals. Of course many would have been waiting to see me eat humble pie, particularly those from Southern Africa that did not take kindly to my analysis of how that region has been dominated through the history of African football by the giant teams of West Africa.
So, my prediction was slightly off the mark with Zambia not only deservedly qualifying for the finals but also going on to win it. I have my consolation though - the gods are to blame. It is only them that could have made me eat my words the way things turned out, as gods are not meant to be partial or to take sides in an ordinary game between two of their own where the better of two teams should always win. Instead, last Sunday night, they conspired with the elements, danced to the music of sentiments and emotions, and produced a final match that could not have been better scripted for it’s drama, excitement and unexpected ending that would humble ‘experts’.
In 120 minutes the world was treated to champagne football, a breathtaking performance put up by the two finalists. On the night though, Ivory Coast that had the slightly better of the goalscoring chances were not rewarded. Remember that they also had better records than Zambia in the history of the championship, and better results in this particular championship up till the final match. Ivory Coast were so good that any other result but defeating Zambia and winning AFCON 2012 would have to be considered an upset.
That was the setting before the final match - an Ivory Coast victory or a Zambian upset. Even the 12 million Zambian ‘army’ of supporters had only hoped rather than truly believed that their team that had played very well up till the final match would win the championship trophy. So, they turned into prayer warriors. I had always thought that no country prays like Nigeria. Nigerians know to pray. They actually introduced praying in a cluster on the field of play to the game of football. It is not uncommon to see Nigerian players even fasting and praying days before matches! I think Zambia must have taken a cue from Nigeria. I am told that the entire country went into a frenzy of prayer and fasting as the final match approached. Television camera’s captured bits and pieces of prayer sessions even during the match, before, at half-time and, particularly, during the dramatic penalty kicks. The Zambians also had other reasons to seek divine intervention.
Fuelled by the tragedy of 1993, there had been a build up of powerful emotions and sympathy for the Zambians. The memory of entire Zambian national team players that had perished in a plane crash off the coast of the same Gabon where the final match was now taking place was brought to life. On the eve of the finals the Zambian players paid an emotional visit to the site of the crash and where the remains of the players were buried, evoking their spirit to come to their support. The final match was, therefore, set against the background of this sentimentally and emotionally charged atmosphere. It was a script perfectly designed for a fairytale ending that only a Zambian victory could have produced. So the entire world watched, wished and prayed for Zambia to win.
The elements had no choice but to join in the conspiracy and to produce the great ending to AFCON 2012 that everyone wanted. And that’s exactly what happened - the gods, not football, decided the outcome of the match.
CHIPOLOPOLO - START OF A NEW FOOTBALL LANDSCAPE!
The Chipolopolo gave the world a truly magnificent and unforgettable experience. Young, athletic, raw and energetic, the Zambians made Africa proud with their passion, power, positive play, speed, skills, commitment, discipline, determination, attacking football and a newly discovered ‘will to win’.
They gave the world a good preview of what to expect in the change that their victory will bring to African football. African football will surely now produce a paradigm shift. A huge barrier has been broken by this victory that will give the Southern and, perhaps, the East African regions the psychological boost to emerge from the shadow of self-doubt and lack of confidence.
Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya, and so on, will now take a cue from the Zambian success and experience, and approach their West and North African opponents with a new attitude and understanding. This was a mountain the region could not scale for decades. Now they have a possible way and answer.
The new kings of African football, these young, brave, very hardworking, intelligent, confident and committed Zambian players, will make rapid progress in the evolution of the best version of footballers from their region and produce a new landscape for football in the continent.
FORGOTTEN IVORY COAST
As things now gradually return to normalcy no one seems to remember the Ivoriens and the part they played in producing one of the most dramatic finals in the history of the championship.
No one feels a sympathy for the team that everyone considered favourites to win the trophy by virtue of their superior standing and ranking in African football, their collection of the continent’s current best players, the depth of their team’s experience and maturity, their unbeaten record throughout the championship (not conceding even one goal in regulation time) and their decent and consistent performance throughout the championship, and how fate dealt them a fatal blow. Didier Drogba, the goalscoring machine, had failed to convert a penalty kick that could have settled the match in regulation.
He kicked the ball so hard and so high above the crossbar that it flew into the terraces. Yaya Toure, Africa’s current best player and the anchor of the Ivorien team had played like a man in a trance, so poorly he had to be substituted before the end of the match. Ivory Coast could do nothing right in a match that was scripted by elements to reward the meek and the underdog!
So, the final match was all about Zambia. And what a performance they put up!
AFCON 2012 has come and gone but the memories, particularly of the final match, will linger for a long time to come.
It also will mark the end of the era of Drogba, Keita and their generation of players, and herald the start of a new era led by the new kids on the block led by Katongo, Mayuka, the Ayews, Agyemang, Msakni, and so on.
It has been a great festival that started rather slowly and poorly, but picked up and climaxed into a truly fantastic finale! Thats why the world is enthralled by ‘the beautiful game’ - you never know what to expect!
AFCON 2012 has been a great experience!
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