Football undoubtedly is the most popular sport in Africa, which unites the entire continent. While many nations play internationally, they participate in the Africa Cup of Nations, a tournament exclusively for African countries. Cameroon hosted the AFCON 2021, which ended on February 6, 2022. The game was vibrant, thrilling, dramatic, and offered pure entertainment.
Let’s look at the five unforgettable moments in the four weeks of the fascinating football festival.
#1 An unfinished business
In a very controversial match, Mali won 1-0 against Tunisia on January 12. Ibrahima Kone scored a second-half penalty and helped Mali take the lead. But the headlines were made by referee Janny Sikazwe who ended the match after 85 minutes of the game. After facing protest by the players and management, he re-started the match but ended the game 13 seconds early. After 40 minutes, the officials tried to start the match again, but the Tunisian team didn’t show up. Mali was declared the winner. Apart from this, Sikazwe also gave a disputed red card. Later, he cleared up that he was on the verge of dying from a heatstroke thanks to the high temperature in Cameroon that was hosting the AFCON 2021
#2 Egyptian goalkeeper forgets his water bottle
In the final match of AFCON 2021, fans were shocked by how the Egyptian goalkeeper Mohamed Abou Gabal could prevent Sadio Mane’s penalty kick. He was the “Man of the match”. However, Egypt lost to Senegal in the penalty shootout. During the penalty against Senegal, the cameras caught him picking up his water bottle too often while he discussed. After the match, he left his bottle on the ground. It listed the details of each Senegal players’ penalty.
#3 A big surprise
Gambia’s first-ever AFCON quarter-final appearance stunned the football world. The team has never been able to qualify for a World Cup.
The Gambia had not won a professional game in five years until coach Tom Saintfiet took charge. For the first time in history, Gambia qualified for the AFCON 2021. The word on the street was that if the Football Federation did not expand the competition to 24 teams, The Gambia would not have qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations. The Gambia was at the bottom in terms of ranking this year but made it to the championship’s final eight. However, their performance thus far has demonstrated that Gambian football is about to enter a new age after the tournament.
#4 The biggest disappointment
Algeria was the experts’ top pick since they had been undefeated in the past 34 matches. They had the best average possession and third highest shots per game. However, they ran short of luck in the tournament. Sierra Leone drew them in a scoreless game. Equatorial Guinea stunned them with a 1-0 victory. Ivory Coast finally eliminated them from the competition after losing 3-1. They could get only one point and score one goal in the entire tournament.
#5 First-ever female referee in AFCON 2021
Rwandan referee Salima Rhadia Mukansanga made history as the first female referee in the AFCON on January 18, 2022. She was in charge of the match between Zimbabwe and Guinea at Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium. Mukansanga first officiated international matches in 2015, Republic of Congo.
She was also one of 47 officials in charge of the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations in Cameroon in 2016. Mukansanga was also a referee in the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France in 2019.
Also, read The African Cup Of Nations.