The present host suits the pattern. Cameroon’s dictator of 39 years is 88-year-old Paul Biya, who spends lengthy stretches of time yearly in Europe, both in luxurious motels or in luxurious hospitals, receiving the form of medical therapy most Cameroonians can hardly dream of. That’s even if a civil war has been simmering since 2017. On the event’s opening ceremony, native organizers staged what was basically an enormous election rally for Mr. Biya, who rolled round in an armored four-wheel-drive automobile because the stadium sang: “Paul Biya, our father, president of the nation. Paul Biya all the time forward.”

However as is so typically the case in up to date Africa, the extra hopeful motion is on the bottom.

That 1996 event from which Nigeria was banned, for instance, was a triumph for my native South Africa, which acquired to rejoice its freedom with a surprising event win. In 2012, a ragtag Zambian nationwide squad, rebuilt after a 1993 plane crash killed 18 gamers together with members of its teaching employees, got here up in opposition to clear favourite Ivory Coast within the last and snatched a stunning victory after 120 minutes with out a objective and 9 rounds of penalty kicks.

This 12 months’s event has seen its share of drama. It has been enjoyable to observe highly effective performances from groups representing small international locations, together with Gambia, Cape Verde and Malawi. On Tuesday, Comoros, the fourth-smallest nation in Africa, defeated four-time Afcon winner Ghana in a 3-2 upset.

Sierra Leone, particularly, has caught my creativeness. It has been grouped with mighty Algeria and Ivory Coast. In its first recreation within the first spherical, on Jan. 11, Sierra Leone was dealing with defending champion Algeria, which final December additionally gained the Arab Cup and was chasing a record for many video games with out a loss by a nationwide workforce. (Italy holds the file at 37 video games; coming into the Sierra Leone match, Algeria stood at 35.) Algeria has Riyad Mahrez, a star at Manchester Metropolis, the richest membership within the English Premier League, and most of his teammates play in Europe’s high leagues.

Sierra Leone, in the meantime, is ranked 108th by FIFA, the physique that governs world soccer, proper between Estonia and North Korea. The workforce’s most recognizable participant is Kei Kamara, a 37-year-old journeyman who made a reputation in Main League Soccer in North America and now performs in Finland.

This was speculated to be simple for Algeria. As an alternative, plucky Sierra Leone held Algeria to a goalless draw. A 22-year-old Sierra Leonean goalkeeper, Mohamed Nbalie Kamara, who performs for East Finish Lions in Freetown, the nation’s capital, kept out everything the Algerians threw at him. When he was awarded Man of the Match after the sport ended, he broke down in tears.


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