The Weird African Cup Of Nations World
The tournament has a rich history and so too are its funny moments which have lived on with the tournament as it grew.
The most memorable being the events that took centre stage at the 1984 finals in the Ivory Coast.
In the semi final match between the Pharaohs of Egypt and the Super Eagles of Nigeria, spectators were stunned when the Egyptian team went into prayer and the referee joined them as the teams went for the dreaded penalty shootouts.
According to the then London based African Soccer magazine, the Egyptians were on course for victory when they went two up before Nigeria’s captain Stephen Keshi pulled one back. Then with 15 minutes remaining, the Super Eagles equalised through Bala to send the game into the penalty shootouts.
Then something unusual happened.
The Egyptian players rushed to their kit bags and withdrew small copies of their bible, the Holy Koran, and started praying right on the football pitch.
The five Egyptian penalty kickers went through some pages of the Holy Koran and praying. The referee from Gambia, Omar Sey did not know what to do. He was confused. Being a Muslim himself, he could not interrupt the Egyptians from their prayers.
What happened later stunned everybody. The spectators, Fifa and Caf officials, and the Nigerian players themselves and the Gambian referee joined the five Egyptian penalty kickers in prayer. The players were praying to Allah, their equal to God, that they convert all their penalties and the referee was adding his voice to their prayers.
It was shocking. The Nigerians could not believe it. So too could everyone in the stadium for the match was in West Africa. The belief now was that Omar Sey was on the Egyptians’ side but could he have an influence on the penalties.
It was unbelievable for this was the first time something like that had happened not only in African football but the world over.
But when they finally took their penalties, the Egyptians lost, and their star player Taher Ammer Abu Zeid, then known as the Maradona of the Nile, missed the crucial penalty kick and the Super Eagles were through to the final.
It showed that God is for all.
Maybe, the Super Eagles too had their belief firmly in juju as West African football nations have a reputation of believing in muti, although some say juju does not work in football.
Unfortunately for the Super Eagles, the Nigerians went on to lose the final 3-1 to the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon which were powered by the legendary, Roger Milla.
Since then, nothing similar to this has ever happened in African football. But it might not be the last.