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Stallions provided Afcon spark

The Africa Cup of Nations has always dished up some fairy tales of its own and, while Zambia were the talk of the town during the 28th edition, this year it has been the Stallions of Burkina Faso.

Lest I forget, Cape Verde also provided us with some excellent copy as they eliminated experienced campaigners Angola and Morocco to reach the last eight, where they unfortunately fell to the Black Stars of Ghana.

Yet I still recall such names as Nando, Rafael and Josimar, who were guided by an air-traffic controller called Lucio Antunes. If anything, they showed all who felt they would be cannon fodder that they deserved to be in South Africa after eliminating Cameroon to qualify.

Ethiopia might not have won a single game. They returned to the summit of African football after an absence of 30 years and, if anything, their colourful and passionate supporters made their matches an occasion to attend.

They played a fluid, carefree type of football laced with incredible skills in an unhurried yet tactical manner and can shoot on sight, especially that Saladin Said, who was in my view an immense talent.

South Africa boxed beyond their weight division and to have put Angola to the sword and then clawed their way back twice from the brink of defeat at the hands of Morocco was, in my view, admirable.

It’s such a pity that they lost to Mali in a penalty shootout, otherwise May Mahlangu, Dean Furman, Itumeleng Khune and certainly Yeye Letsholonyane epitomised the saying that soldiers die with their boots on.

We have seen some good refereeing as well as shocking decisions. I am of the view that the fellows in black have to make instant decisions at the speed of sound and about a movement that happened like a blur.

Yet so many decisions left me open mouthed and the Tunisian referee who handled the Burkina Faso semifinal match against Ghana also got it completely wrong when he sent off Jonathan Pitriopa for a second bookable offence.

My compatriot, Daniel Bennett, also had a bad day at the office when he handled the match between Togo and Tunisia. I have the utmost respect for Bennett and I know deep down that he is the kind who believes in the spirit of the game.

However, he had a shocker on that day and as the game progressed I thought he would get the game under control. It seemed to be actually slipping from his grasp and I’m sure when he watches that game he will experience nightmares!

Talking about Burkina Faso, what a fairy tale it would be if they ended up snatching the crown from Nigeria? I know my Naija friends are going to crucify me for daring to suggest that they are not the champions in waiting.

However, football is about bringing hope to a hopeless people. Mali and the DR Congo, as well as Ivory Coast, had civil wars raging in their respective countries and were hoping that success at the tournament could bring hope.

I know Nigeria are favorites and, to be fair, the manner in which they reached the final indicates that they could just snatch it. Burkina Faso has also played some exciting football and that blond-haired Aristide Bance is quite a handful.

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