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Goals, fix claims, and a bride – only in Ghana

ACCRA: It was sometimes hard to know where to focus at the 2008 African Nations Cup with a feast of drama both on and off the pitch. The battle for the African crown has been generally acclaimed as the best yet, a view supported by a record number of goals and worthy champions in Egypt, …


ACCRA: It was sometimes hard to know where to focus at the 2008 African Nations Cup with a feast of drama both on and off the pitch.

The battle for the African crown has been generally acclaimed as the best yet, a view supported by a record number of goals and worthy champions in Egypt, which is saying something given the horrendous organizational hiccups that dogged the three week competition.

The atmosphere in the stadium, especially when Ghana were in action, was a riot of noise and color.

While the football fizzed like champagne there was plenty going on the sidelines too, not least the fact that between them the Confederation of African Football and the local organizing committee managed to mismanage a whole host of situations.

Accreditation was little short of a shambles, with the world s media enduring a tortuous process to obtain their passes.

It got so bad Ghana s Minister of Sport was forced to appear on television to apologize.

Ticketing was another dubious area with local fans almost causing a mini riot when they descended on the distributors to vent their anger at the non-availability of tickets.

Many were snapped up at the face value of about four dollars and sold on by racketeers at prices up to $50 – well outside the pocket of half the population in this west African state which earns an average of a dollar a day.

The teams too had their problems, with Cameroon coach Otto Pfister seeming to raise a new gripe almost on a daily basis.

It s a total catastrophe, the 70-year-old German blasted after the beaten finalists kit went missing and their hotel rooms weren t prepared.

Every day there s something. Remember, we ve got several world stars in the squad – it s really hard trying to keep up the team s morale.

No sooner had organization improved than the shadow of match-fixing fell on the tournament.

Benin coach Reinhard Fabisch claimed he d been approached by a man representing an Asian betting syndicate interested in fixing Benin s opening Group B game with Mali.

Then the Namibia players announced they d been offered 30,000 dollars a man to throw their Group A game with Guinea.

Hosts Ghana then had to survive a near walk-out from striker Asamoah Gyan after the torrent of abuse he received for his lackluster display against Namibia.

The Udinese forward and his family were subjected to threats and the family home was put under police protection.

It was more than just unfair criticism. He was threatened, his mother was threatened, his father was threatened. It s the stupidity of the world that we live in, said Ghana coach Claude Le Roy.

Over in Kumasi it wasn t all plain sailing for champions Egypt, who changed hotels three times before finding suitable accommodation.

It wouldn t be normal for a tournament such as this to pass without an incident involving Tunisia s prickly coach Roger Lemerre, who stormed out of one press conference and confiscated a tripod belonging to a Tunisian television crew.

Then there were the usual disputes over players bonuses with the Zambia camp publicly denying there players staged a protest before their game against Cameroon over the ever thorny issue.

All of the above of course was put in the shade by the exploits of Mohamed Abou Trika, Egypt s goal hero in Sunday s final, all time top scorer Samuel Eto o and company on the pitches of Accra, Kumasi, Sekondi and Tamale.

Finally, Ghana striker Junior Agogo is used to the adulation of his home fans but one, an 82-year-old grandfather, went a step further when he offered the Nottingham Forest forward his granddaughter s hand in marriage.

I d like to meet her, was the Ghana star s eager reaction.

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