Libya’s national team headed for home on their charter plane on Sunday, basking in the glory of improbable qualification to next year’s CAF Africa Cup of Nations. Their jet set off on a 10-hour journey from Ndola on Zambia’s Copperbelt to Tunisia, after which they plan to cross the border home and embark on a victory tour of Libya’s embattled capital Tripoli. The side will be feted as heroes after completing a remarkable campaign unbeaten, setting off huge celebrations across a country still mired in conflict.
Libya’s 0-0 draw away against Zambia in Chingola was not enough to win their group, but it was good enough to see them finish in one of the two best runner-up berths. The Libyans had been aware of their potential to slip through into the 16-team field for next year’s tournament in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, with their Brazilian coach Marcos Paqueta cognisant that a draw might be enough, provided they could hold out against an attacking Zambia side on home soil.
There were some hair-raising moments for the Libya defence, but goalkeeper Samir Aboud and central defender Ali Salama in particular put in heroic performances that ensured a goalless stalemate that left the side on 12 points, one behind their hosts. But it was not yet mathematically certain that Libya would go through when their match at the Nchanga Stadium concluded, even though they wasted no time beginning their celebrations.
Paqueta looked almost bewildered by the achievement at the end of the game, while the hero of the hour, veteran goalkeeper Aboud, stood serenely to the side of his team-mates who were feverishly hugging each other in congratulations. “It is unbelievable what these players have done, even if we didn’t play so well today,” the much-travelled Paqueta said after the game in which the hosts rattled the woodwork twice. “We believed in our mission, and we have gone through a lot together.”
Aboud, who at 39 was making an unlikely return to a much revamped line-up, called qualification a win for “all the Libyan people, not only the team” before adding emotionally: “We have gone through a lot, but we have stayed true to our job and this victory is for all of us.”
Libya had high ambitions when they started the qualifying campaign last June, hiring the former Saudi Arabia coach on a four-year contract. “I had seen this Libyan team play on television before, and so I was intrigued by them,” said Paqueta. “When they proposed a contract with me, I made a huge plan of work, not only for the national side but also the junior teams and to help the club structures. The Libyans liked it, and so I signed.”
His tenure started successfully with a draw away in Mozambique in the first of the Group D qualifiers and then a home win last October over Zambia. “But they were not easy games. The match in Mozambique came in the middle of Ramadan and the players were fasting. They were physically weak because of it,” Paqueta explained. “Against Zambia, our team doctor had a heart attack and died in the hotel the night before the match. He was very popular with the players.”
Shortly before their next game at the end of March came the start of the country’s revolution. It meant the game against the Comoros Islands had to go ahead in neutral Mali but the Libyans still won comfortably in Bamako. By then, their domestic league had stopped and organised football ground to halt. It had taken a matter of weeks for the situation to change entirely.
By June, the conflict left the team in ruins, and Paqueta had only players from the capital Tripoli to choose from for the return game, away in the Comoros. It ended 1-1 draw after a late goal by the hosts. By the time the qualifiers resumed in September for the penultimate group game, the situation was even more fluid and the ‘home’ match against Mozambique moved to Cairo. But Libya won to keep alive their seemingly improbable hopes, and then completed an unbeaten campaign by drawing in Chingola on Saturday.
“We have had a big challenge, but I told my players we need to focus on the football first,” said a proud Paqueta. “We don’t have to always mix the problems of the country with football, and to their credit they have kept concentrating on the task ahead.
Now the coach will turn his attention to preparing for the Cup of Nations finals. He is seeking to find more players of Libyan descent in Europe to strengthen the side and wants to give more home-based youngsters an opportunity. He is hoping to fix several training camps to keep his players competitive. It will be only the third time Libya are represented at the Cup of Nations but, whatever result they achieve, they have already far exceeded expectations. The hero Aboud summed up the warm feelings in the team by describing the qualification simply as “a miracle.”
CAF Mulls Super League Idea
The Confederation of African Football [CAF] is discussing the idea of introducing an African Super League, a continental competition which would likely replace the current CAF Champions League and hopefully boost revenue for the organising body.
The revelation was made as CAF President Patrice Motsepe issued a statement outlining the changes and reforms the new leadership is making to ensure African football is globally competitive and self-sustaining.
The idea has taken shape even despite the disastrous European Super League [ESL] proposal earlier this year, which caused major controversy before being banned after most founding member clubs bowed to fan pressure and pulled out.
“ExCo [the CAF executive committee] may have to discuss and consider new CAF competitions which may generate additional funding or income for CAF, its member associations and bodies and also contribute to African football becoming globally competitive and self-sustaining,” Motsepe was quoted as saying by Tidesports source.
“In this regard, we are assessing and [are] in preliminary discussions to start an inclusive and broadly supported and beneficial CAF African Super League. We have been following the attempts by some top European clubs to form a Euro Super League and will learn from their experience and pitfalls.”
CAF is looking to boost income after recent forensic auditing revealed that the organisation has been beset by financial irregularities.
NPFL: Rivers United’s Coach Praises Players
The Chief Coach of Rivers United FC of Port Harcourt, Ndubuisi Nduka, has praised his players after a 1-0 win over Katsina United FC in the match day 28 of the Nigeria Professional Football League ( NPFL) in Port Harcourt.
He stated that his boys (players) gave all their best to ensure they secured the maximum three points for the team, and described the encounter as very tough.
Nduka, said this on Sunday, during a post match interview with sports journalists, after the Pride of Rivers, defeated their opponents 1-0, at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt.
According to him, what made the match more difficult for his players was that they failed to utilise goal opportunities they created in the first half of the game.
The only goal of the game came in the 77th minute by home boy, Malachi Ohawume, who made his goals four for this league season.
“It was a tough game; I think our boys gave it all.
What made it more difficult for us was the chances we lost especially in the first half, “ Nduka said.
He explained that the second round of the league is always difficult because every team is fighting to be at top and some are fighting not to be relegated.
“At this point and time of the league, the second round, we are stretching to the finishing point.
“It is always difficult and if you remember the position of Katsina United, they are not safe so they are looking for where to pick points, so I gave kudos to my boys as they secured three points for us, “ he stated.
Rivers United is now 4th on the log after 28 matches with 48 points.
By: Kiadum Edookor
Hockey Championship: Team Rivers’ Performance Excites Coach
The Head coach of Team Rivers State, (female) hockey, Comfort Nya, has commended her players after they defeated team Edo, 3-1 in the ongoing, 2021 Mabisel National Hockey Championship (MNHC) in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
She, described the match as one of the toughest games they have played, saying that the calibre of players she saw in the team Edo lineup was intimidating.
Nya said this on Monday in her post match interview with sports journalists, after their first victory in the championship, at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Sports in Port Harcourt.
According to her, their first game in the championship was difficult because of the heavy downpour, adding that they could not play well but today they are awesome.
“It was a tough one, honestly speaking I would not tell lies, and the players I saw in team Edo lineup are old and good players and my girls are just upcoming.
“I was thinking of draw or let them just play but with this result I am so happy with their performance, “Nya said.
The coach further explained that their next outing will be against team Kaduna, they are going to do more better.
“Our first game was disturbed by heavy rainfall, they could not play well but today they have performed well.
“In our next game against team Kaduna, we are going to do better,” She stated..
By: Kiadum Edookor
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