For the past three weeks fans of African football have been gripped by the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon.
There was drama right from the off. Even before a ball had been kicked the Cameroon team was in disarray after several high-profile players refused to turn out for their national side. When the tournament did get underway there was concern at the poor quality of the playing surfaces and the low crowds, apart from when the hosts, Gabon, were in action.
Planet Sport Football Africa producer Steve Vickers was in Gabon, providing television commentary for the tournament organisers, CAF. This enabled him to produce the show from the tournament, providing comment and analysis for our listeners from this top African football competition.
Planet Sport Football Africa listeners fully embraced the tournament and engaged with us enthusiastically on social media. Listeners in The Gambia, which did not reach the finals, put their allegiance behind neighbours Senegal, who were led from the front by Liverpool’s talismanic striker, Sadio Mané.
There were shocks galore. Defending champions Ivory Coast, failed to qualify from the Group stage, as did highly-rated Algeria, despite having Leicester City’s 2015/16 PFA Players’ Player of the Year, Riyad Mahrez, in their ranks. Many observers now tipped Senegal to win but the applecart was upset once again when The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon beat them in a tense penalty shoot-out.
Seven-times winners, Egypt, progressed to the final at the expense of Burkina Faso after another dramatic penalty shoot-out while little-fancied Cameroon joined them after an impressive 2-0 semi-final win against Ghana.
And so it was that The Indomitable Lions met The Pharoahs in the final in Libreville and it was Cameroon who triumphed, coming from behind to record a 2-1 victory, scoring the winner just two minutes from time. It was a wonderful story of the underdog overcoming the favourite, a true David v Goliath sporting story. Afterwards Cameroon’s Belgian coach Hugo Broos said of his squad: “I don’t have 23 players, I have 23 friends.” He added, “Over the weeks we went from being a squad to becoming a family. It's unbelievable what all the guys did. It is tremendous."
Our listeners thought so too.
“Oh yeah, Cameroon, champions of Africa! They really deserved it, credit to them,” said Jamba from the Gambia.
And many like Alfred in Malawi agreed it had been a terrific tournament. “This year’s AFCON was so good since Bukina Faso surprised many and Cameroon’s return to winning the Championship is a great encouragement.”
Planet Sport Football Africa reflects our aim to introduce sports fans to Jesus through media. During the Cup of Nations our programmes included interviews with Christian players, such as the former Cameroon midfielder, Eyong Enoh, who shared his experiences of playing in the Cup of Nations and spoke eloquently about the difference that Jesus has made in his life. You can listen to that programme here:
By Adrian Barnard