Théophile Abega, the heart and soul of Cameroon’s superb national team of the 1980s, has died at the age of 58. Thoughtful, elegant, and tough, Abega had an illustrious club career with Canon Yaoundé. He was a dominant force in the team that twice won the African Champions Cup (1978, 1980), the African Cup Winners’ Cup (1976, 1979), and three domestic league titles. Abega’s only World Cup participation was in 1982 in Spain, where Cameroon drew all three group stage matches against Peru, Poland, and Italy.
I remember watching him on TV against my beloved Azzurri in an extraordinarily tense contest with qualification to the next round on the line. Abega’s composure, strength, and technique were striking. As a result of the 1-1 draw, Cameroon was eliminated on goal difference (number of goals scored in fact) but nevertheless enhanced the image of African football on the global stage. Two years later, as the video above demonstrates, Abega was at his footballing peak as Cameroon defeated Nigeria 3-1 in the 1984 African Nations Cup final. The Indomitable Lions returned to international glory at the 1990 World Cup in Italy (Roger Milla!), but by that time Abega had closed out his career with Toulouse in France and no longer commanded Cameroon’s midfield with his consummate professionalism and style.
May his soul rest in peace.
An antidote to Shakira and Pitbull!
“Afri Can” is a charity single by Replay GH, a Ghana-based group featuring Zed Ay Kay (Replay GH), Fuji, Farid, and Gustav. It brings together inﬂuence from the ﬁve African countries that have qualified for the Brazil 2014 World Cup: Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Algeria, and Ivory Coast.
According to the artists, “the different inﬂuences, and styles are seamlessly woven together to produce a modern Afro Beats song for the enjoyment of all football and music fans.” To find out more about Afri Can, visit: http://www.outofafricacampaign.com/afri-can/
The 1990 World Cup hosted by Italy is often remembered for the exploits of Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions. Led by 38-year-old striker Roger Milla, Cameroon legitimized African football on the global stage with their 1-0 victory over Maradona’s Argentina in the opening game and then becoming the first African team to reach the World Cup quarterfinals. In 1994, Bea Vidacs, a Hungarian anthropologist based in the United States, landed in Yaoundé to begin her research on football and identity in Cameroon. Visions of a Better World: Football in the Cameroonian Social Imagination is a revised version of a doctoral thesis completed in 2002, a study that over the years midwifed several very good journal articles and chapters in scholarly collections.
Read my full review at H-Soz-u-Kult.
The biggest day in South African women’s football history ended in heartbreak as Equatorial Guinea defeated Banyana Banyana 3-1 after extra time on Thursday at a packed Sinaba stadium in Daveyton outside Johannesburg. After 90 minutes the score was 0-0.
The decisive moment came in the 103rd minute. Salimata Simpore capitalized on a defensive mistake by Van Wyk with a simple finish from just inside the box to give the defending champions a 1-0 lead they did not relinquish.
Psychologically shaken and physically tired, the hosts collapsed. In the 109th minute, a Banyana corner led to a breakaway by Equatorial Guinea that ended with a Jade cross being clumsily deflected by Dludlu inside the far post for an own goal that put the game away. As the deflated home crowd filed out of the stadium, Salimata collected a cross, and in one smooth move faked out a Banyana defender and the goalkeeper to slot home a third goal. Amanda Dlamini saved South Africa’s honor with a delicate chip over the keeper two minutes from time. Final score: 3-1 Equatorial Guinea.
The game had started with the defending champions in control, a fact reflected in their 60 per cent possession of the ball in the first twenty minutes. But the first chance fell to South Africa in the 14th minute when in-form striker Amanda Dlamini squandered the easiest of chances, shooting right at the goalkeeper from close range. Banyana gained confidence and territory in the latter part of the first half, largely thanks to Jafta’s domination of the midfield. Just before the break, Van Wyk’s free kick missile from 40 meters out (!) was tipped over the bar by Miriam. On the ensuing corner, Jafta turned and struck a wonderful shot from near the penalty spot, which forced a miraculous diving save from the Equatorial Guinea keeper. No score after a bruising first half. South Africa would come to rue the missed chances.
The second half was more guarded, neither side wanting to risk making a costly mistake. The Togolese referee seemed far too tolerant of rough tackling, with several players on both sides suffering injuries that required bandaging of heads as well as “holy water” treatment. Despite notching 56 percent of possession, Banyana were unable to penetrate, or seriously threaten the Equatorial Guinea defense anchored by Carolina. Then a turning point in the match: Augustine Makalakalane, South Africa’s coach, replaced Jafta with Makhabane, hoping to gain in creativity and attacking force. Instead the move backfired as Equatorial Guinea asserted control of the midfield. The best chances in the final twenty minutes fell to Chinasa Okoro and Salimata, with goalkeeper Mndaweni doing well to stop them in one-on-one situations.
Dlamini almost won it for South Africa on the stroke of 90 minutes with a high shot to the near post that Miriam parried away for a corner. As we readied ourselves for extra time, Salimata broke away from her marker down the right side but failed to deliver an easy pass to Chinasa for the simplest of tap-in goals. It was a sign of things to come.
Earlier in the day, news reports in South Africa had criticized Equatorial Guinea for quickly giving citizenship to players from Brazil, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Senegal. According to kickoff.com, Salimata even played in the AWC qualifiers for Ivory Coast! Cameroon lodged an official protest about Salimata in the group stage, but CAF appears uninterested in pursuing the case.
So Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria — 5-1 winners over Cameroon in the other semifinal — will represent Africa at 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany. The African champion will be determined on Sunday.
Three victories by a combined score of 10-1 so far in the 2010 African Women’s Championship make Nigeria’s Super Falcons heavy favorites to claim the continental crown.
Led by superstar striker Perpetua Nkwocha’s seven goals, the Super Falcons face Cameroon in tomorrow’s first semifinal. (This match kicks off at 10am. Brunch at Sinaba stadium anyone?). These two West African rivals — in men’s and women’s football — have met in each of the last three AWC tournaments, with Cameroon losing three times (once on penalties) and drawing once. In the 2004 final in South Africa, Cameroon were humiliated by Nigeria 5-0, with Nkwocha scoring four goals. Not a good omen for The Indomitable Lionesses.
South Africa and Equatorial Guinea meet in the second semifinal (3:30pm start, thankfully). This is a rematch of the 2008 title game won by the small oil-rich nation by a score of 2-1. Neither team has played their best football yet so this is likely going to be a riveting contest. Local media have been giving Banyana Banyana unprecedented coverage. The sportive nationalism of the crowds at Sinaba stadium has boosted the confidence, if not the performance, of the South Africans and may well prove decisive against the defending champions.
Prediction: South Africa and Nigeria meet in the final on Sunday.
The German shoe and sportswear company, Puma, sponsors at least 12 African national football teams–five of which qualified for the 2010 World Cup. To commemorate the World Cup year (and because it is good PR and to sell shirts), Puma commissioned artist Kehinde Wiley to create four new works of arts inspired by the footbal stars Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon, John Mensah of Ghana and Emmanuel Eboué of Ivory Coast. Wiley painted individual portraits of the players and a fourth painting (above) of the three players “symbolizing the united countries of Africa.” The players are wearing the “Unity” kit, a limited edition uniform designed to be a third kit (apart from home and away kits) shared by all African teams, symbolizing unity.
Here‘s a link to a video of Wiley at work on the project with Mensah, Eboue and Eto’o.
The paintings will be exhibited during the World Cup in South Africa.
Can Africa’s World Cup qualifiers respond and take their game to a higher level. There were precious few clues in Angola to suggest they could. One would tend not to identify Pussy Cats, Super Turkeys and Tuskless Elephants as World Cup winning species, but if Cameroon, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire apply themselves like Black Stars they could move beyond the shadow of the Pharoahs and rediscover their fierceness.
The Black Stars were not predicted to shine in Angola. A significant number of their established names were injured or sulking. But with Milovan Rajevec, an old Yugoslav in command of the x’s and o’s, and a squad of U20 World Cup winners to choose from, folks should not have been so surprised. There has been plenty of talk of those who filled the boots of Appiah, Essien, Mensah and Muntari. Agyemang-Badu, Asamoah, Ayew and Inkoom are now household names, the equal of any Pharoah or sulking star. Ghana’s graduates will give pause to Australia, Germany and Serbia, who should note the Pharoahs may not have been so pleased with themselves if Rajevec had also introduced goalkeeper Daniel Adjei and centre forward Dominic Adiyah. Ghana were just an Adjei fingertip and an Adiyah toe poke away from closing down the party at Club Pharoah.
So how will Les Éléphants, Les Lions Indomptables and Super Eagles respond to their inglorious exits from Angola? Will they promote from their junior ranks? Will they advertise for an old partizan with a chalkboard? They could do all of the above, but nothing will change for them if the likes of Drogba, Eto’s and Yakubu don’t believe.