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Oddities of Africa Cup of Nations

Published on Sunday 24th January 2010

The history of the 53 years Africa Cup of Nations has been spiced with many delightful and undelightful oddities since its inception.

In fact, the inaugural edition began with an undelightful oddity. South Africa, which was one of the founding members of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), was expelled because the South African Soccer authorities insisted on an all-white team, while CAF insisted on a multi-racial team. South Africa refused and CAF had no alternative than to use the sledge hammer by expelling South Africa.

The South Africans were walked over in their matches, which made Ethiopia to reach the final without kicking a ball. The Ethiopians were however, thrashed 4-0 by Egypt in the final match in the Khartoum stadium in Sudan on 16 February 1957.

The delightful oddity in this match was that one player; the Egyptian EI-Diba scored all the four goals in the grand finale. Two of EI-Diba's goals were scored with the right foot one with the left football and a glancing header.

Interestingly in the first match of the Africa Cup of Nations on 10 February 1957 between Egypt and Sudan, the match was only 25 minutes into the first half when the Ethiopian referee Guebeuhu Doube awarded a penalty to the Egyptians, which was beautifully converted by Raafat Attia. Thus, the first goal of the Africa Cup of Nations was scored through a penalty. Delightfully, the 1000th goal in the history of the Africa Cup of Nations was a penalty converted by Nigeria's Captain Austin Jay-Jay Okocha in 2004 in Tunisia.

At the seventh edition of the Africa Cup of Nations again in Sudan in 1970, another undelightful oddity was recorded. It happened after the final match between hosts Sudan and Ghana. The Ghanaians had alleged that the match played on February 16, was scandalously officiated by the Ethiopian referee Gebressus Tesfaye which led to the 0-1 loss to Sudan courtesy of the goal scored by Eliseed in the 12 minute. The Ghanaians bluntly refused to collect their silver medals. The Sudanese authorities felt slighted and in annoyance threw diplomatic ties and spirit of the game into the winds by giving the Ghanaians a 24-hour ultimatum to leave their country. Infact, this nearly broke diplomatic relations between the two countries, but the hatchet was buried to avoid damage to the reputation of CAF.

A couple of delightful oddities were recorded at the ninth edition of the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt in 1974. In the "first" match on March 12, Zaire and Zambia drew 2-2 after extra time. The Zairean prolific scorer Mulumba Ndaye scored two goals for his country in the 65th and 117th minutes, while Kaushi and Sinyangwe scored for Zambia in the 40th and 120 minutes respectively.

That is, the two countries scored against each other during regulation (90 minutes) while two other goals were scored during extra time. In a replay (the first in the history of the Africa Cup of Nations) two days later, in the same venue, officiated by the same Libyan referee Gamar, Mulumba Ndaye, nicknamed the "Assasin of Katanga" again scored the two goals, which swung victory to his country in the 30th and 70th minutes.

At the eleventh edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, an undelightful oddity was recorded during the third place play off between Nigeria and Tunisia on 18 March 1978 in Accra Ghana. After only 30 minutes of play, the Tunisians suddenly abandoned the match because of alleged partial officiating and suddenly withdrew from the competitions CAF's sledge hammer led to Tunisia's two-year suspension from all the competitions organized by the continent's soccer governing body.

A toss of the coin was used to decide the second qualifier for a semi-final ticket of the 1988-Cup of Nations in Morocco, suavely called Maroc '88. Algeria and Morocco tied in their preliminary Group A game. Algeria however, won on the toss of the coin and picked up the ticket for the semi-final against Nigeria, which ended 1-1 after extra time. Algeria defender Belgherbi scored an own goal and all the goal keepers took their kicks in the nerve-cracking penalty shoot-out and in the sudden death", after Algeria's celebrated war-horse Lakhdar Belloumi sporting jersey number ten missed his kick that gave Nigeria the ticket to the final. Augustine Eguavoen took Nigeria's last penalty kick, and scored a beautiful goal.

At the final match of the 1992 edition of the competition in Senegal, between Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana a delightful oddity was also recorded. It was a dramatic match, which showcased the vibrancy of African Football. It produced a game of technical masterliness, tactically enriched and emotionally laddened. Both teams ended 120 minutes of hard soccer in a barren draw. In the penalty shoot-out 21 goals were scored. Cote d'Ivoire scored 11 goals to win the trophy while Ghana scored 10 goals to attain the runners up position. Each member of both teams took a penalty kick

The 22nd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, co-hosted by Nigeria and Ghana in 2000, completed a hat-trick of humiliations and undelightful oddity for Nigeria. Oddly enough, Cameroon beat Nigeria for the third time in the grand finale of the biennial continental football festival. In the final of the 14th edition of the competition in Abidjan Cote d'Ivoire on 18 March 1984, Cameroon beat Nigeria 3-1. Muda Lawal opened the flood gates of goals in the 10th minute but at the last blast of the whistle of the Tunisian referee Ali Bennaceur, Cameroon scored three goals to end proceedings with goals from Rene Ndjeya 32nd, Theophile "Dr" Abega 79th and Ernest Ebongue 84th accounting for the goals.

In the final of the 16th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations on 27th March 1988 in Casablanca Morocco, Cameroon again beat Nigeria 1-0 to win the continent's most prized diadem. Although many soccer pundits were of the opinion that Mauritanian referee Idriss Sarr navigated the route for Cameroon to win by awarding a controversial penalty to Cameroon which was converted by defender Emmanuel Jerome Kunde after Roger Albert Milla had dived while taking one of those his trade mark Slalom movements in the vital area of Eagles.

On February 13, 2000 inside the main bowl of the national stadium Surulere Lagos, the Indomitable Lions beat the Super Eagles 4-3 on penalties. At the end of a tactically absorbing, physically demanding and emotionally laddened match, both teams settled for a 2-2 draw after 120 minutes. Two-time African footballer of the year, Samuel Eto'o Fils opened scores for Cameroon in the 27th minute while Patrick Mboma netted in Cameroon's second goal in the 31st. minute. The Super Eagles equalized through Raphael Chukwu 44, in the minute and Austin Jay-Jay Okocha scored in the 47th minute. Again Nigerian soccer fans across the globe, gnashed their teeth as Tunisian referee Mourad Daami who most times circumvented the laws of the game to the satisfy his whims and caprices to record one of the most undelightful oddities in the history of the Africa Cup of Nations.

The match between Nigeria and Benin Republic in the on-going Orange Africa Cup of Nations in Angola recorded a delightful oddity. Nigeria used three captains to prosecute the match. When Captain Joseph Yobo was injured, he gave the captain's band to Yakubu Aiyegbeni who was substituted and the captains band was given to Osaze Odenwengie. The Eagles ended up having three captains in one match.

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