- It sounds jolly in Ghana.
The top man at the football association painted a joyous picture of the ethos in his homeland. “Football is played in all the communities in Ghana,” said the Ghana FA president Kwesi Nyantakyi. “It is part of our life. What we don’t have is the money to develop the infrastructure. So you find people play football on bare ground, no grass. When we were young a lot of people could not buy equipment, even footballs … a lot of people could not afford a football. So when your father is able to buy a football for you, you become captain of the team. You choose people to send onto the pitch and when the game is finished you put the ball in your armpit. Or any time you go and there is a selection and you are left out you say: ‘OK. I am the owner of the ball. I take my ball and I’m off.’”
- An official from Mauritius has been sent off.
There’s grim irony here. But the man who oversaw Equatorial Guinea’s win against Tunisia in the quarter-final in Bata on day 15 has been given the red card by the Confederation of African Football’s referees committee. Seechurn Rajindrapasard has been banned for six months and taken off the elite referees panel. It has all come about for what has been judged a poor performance. The committee added there was an unacceptable failure to maintain calm and ensure proper control of the players during the match. This was the game where one Tunisian player threw himself at the Equatorial Guinea goalkeeper after fluffing the chance that would have made it 2-0 to the north Africans. Others were rolling around as if they had been hit by a brick. So Rajindrapasard is the fall guy – so to speak – for grown men on both teams acting like children. Ghana supporters are apparently worried that if there is dodgy officiating that will favour the hosts. We can’t imagine that.
- There’s no gratitude.
Here you go and save the continent’s prestige football tournament and the guys who wouldn’t have a show without you, smack you with a fine. Yes, the wild and crazy world of CAF and the Cup of Nations is in living colour. Because some delirious fans invaded the pitch after the 2-1 quarter-final win over Tunisia in Bata … Article 151 paragraph two of the CAF disciplinary code, has to come into force. FEGUIFUT - the Equatorial Guinea FA - has to pay 4,370 euros for the intrusion. They’ve also been told to make sure there’s better security at the semi-finals, the third place play-off and the final. Nyantakyi’s tales of yesteryear come to mind.
- People aren’t used to the heat
Odd that. Here we all are in Africa enjoying Africa’s football party with the footballs provided by big daddy Equatorial Guinea. And there are squabbles. On and off the field. CAF, eager to show even-handedness, has hit Tunisia with sanctions under Articles 82, 83, 125 and 133 of the disciplinary code. Ouch! After the quarter-final Tunisian players smashed up bits of the dressing room in Bata and so have been ordered to repair the damage. Wadie Jary, president of the Tunisian Football Federation and a member of the competition’s organising committee, has been castigated for his comments. They were a quadrivium of complaints from bias to bigotry. The Tunisian federation has been fined 44,000 euros "for the insolent, aggressive and unacceptable behaviour of the players and officials of the Tunisian team". And here’s the icing on the cake. The Tunisian federation has to send a letter before midnight on day 20 to say sorry for the insinuations of bias and lack of ethics against CAF and its officials. If they don’t do that the north Africans have to show irrefutable evidence to substantiate their accusations. For an outfit that has a rule where teams have to be separated by the drawing of lots, this is spectacularly dynamic. If the Tunisians do nothing, then the disciplinary panel will suggest to the executive committee more sanctions including expulsion from the 2017 tournament. Potential hosts of the 2017 CAN? Ghana, Gabon, Egypt and yes, you guessed it, Tunisia. The decision for the location of the 2017 tournament will be made on 17 April. The review, like countless others, hopes that CAF is a joined-up organisation.
- Equatorial Guinea’s players fancy their chances
And why not? They have nothing to lose. Apart from a football match. The squad flew into Malabo from Bata on day 18 and went for a training session at the Estadio de Rebola. This is a charming stadium, gracefully sliced out of the forest. It’s about 15 kilometres away and a few hundred metres up above the maritime humidity of the city centre. It is clear and crisp. Rather like the security forces who ordered the review to put away our computer as the squad started to go through their paces. Readers – and we believe there are more than one – of the review will know that we have a policy of always doing what men with rifles tell us. Especially men with black nets stretched over their bald pates. They look and sound tough. Readers will be pleased to know that review retains its defiant streak: we brazenly took pictures of the stadium’s façade.