Wartorn Mali's national soccer team advances to African Nations Cup semi-finals


KPFA Evening News, 02.02.2013

Mali's national soccer team advanced to the semi-finals of the African Nations Cup after winning an electrifying game that went into overtime and finally penalty kicks.


Mali's national soccer teammates celebrate advancing to the semi-finals of the 2013 African Nations Cup. Team captain Seydou Keitu is #12, second from right. KPFA Evening News Anchor Cameron Jones: As American football fans geared up for tomorrow’s SuperBowl, over 50,000 South African fans filled a stadium to cheer for their national futbol, aka, soccer, team, in the quarter finals of the African Nations Cup. However, after an electrifying game that went into overtime and finally penalty kicks, wartorn Mali’s team triumphed, securing a place in the semi-finals. On January 30th, after Mali tied D.R. Congo to advance to this quarter finals match, its team captain Seydou Keitu shed a tear before telling press that, “This victory will bring hope to the people back home. . . You have no idea what it means to play for Mali at this time. Giving hope to the people is priceless.”

KPFA’s Ann Garrison has more.

KPFA/Ann Garrison: Soccer is a European transplant in Africa, and the African games in part give African players a chance to audition for lucrative contracts on European and even Chinese teams, but fans of the African national teams are as wildly enthusiastic as Europe’s and the national teams’ battles often become emblematic of their countries’ own. When Mali’s Eagles tied D.R. Congo’s Leopards to advance to today’s quarter final, both teams carried the flag of wartorn nations with foreign troops inside their borders.

Today Mali’s national soccer team entered the stadium knowing that it would be filled with fans rooting for the home team, but also knowing that their friends and family were living in fear and in need of the comfort of a national soccer victory.

Team captain Seydou Keitu, a 33-year-old midfielder near the end of his star career playing for European and Chinese pro teams, and Mali’s national team, spoke to the press in French with English translation, before entering today’s quarter finals.

South African fans were disappointed, but they had every reason to be proud of how their team had played the game. Seydou Keitu: Quand vous me voier jouer. . . .(Translation: When you look at me playing, do I look like an old man? I don't think so. I am only thirty-three. Of course I won everything in football. I won all the titles. Today I only want to bring joy to my country. You cannot imagine how happy I am to be here playing with younger players and bringing joy to my country.)

KPFA: Seydou Keitu scored the point that tied the game, till it went into overtime and Mali triumphed in penalty kicks. Before the game, he had also offered to help pay Mali’s other players' bonuses with his Euro soccer star's wealth if they won today.

This was without doubt the closest, hardest fought game of this African championship. Though soccer is nowhere near as brutal as American football, several players were carried off the field injured and a referee ordered one South African off the field until he could stop bleeding and change his bloody shirt.

South Africa’s coach said that he could not have asked more of his team than they gave in such a close, hard fought, well played game.  

For Pacifica, KPFA, and AfrobeatRadio, I'm Ann Garrison.


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