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Mali’s Success Overwhelms Captain Kante

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Cedric Kante has revealed that he is honoured to have been captain of Mali as the Eagles recorded their best Africa Cup of Nations finish in 40 years at the just concluded 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.

The West Africans beat regional rivals Ghana 2-0 to take third place at the finals for the first time.

“It’s a great honour, as a captain and a Malian player, to finish third, a very great feeling”, said Kante.

“When we started this competition, we came to play as well as possible but we didn’t expect results like this”.

“I am more than happy (and) more than satisfied.”

Prior to the competition, most Malian fans had low expectations because of the combination of big-name absentees, a handful of injuries and the introduction of several youngsters.

However, a 1-0 win over Guinea in Mali’s opening game propelled the Eagles into the knock-out stages from Group D, where they were beaten by Ghana before sinking Botswana.

In the quarter-finals, coach Alain Giresse’s side took on co-hosts Gabon and triumphed via a penalty shoot-out after the game finished 1-1 after extra-time.

The Eagles were trailing in Libreville before finding an equaliser with just six minutes left, an incident that reflected the Malians’ character at these finals, says Kante.

“The spirit is here, we have the quality, we are young and I think we can improve in the next couple of years,” the centre-back told Tidesports source.

“We have been building the spirit we showed in this competition for two years now, it is not a new thing.”

The Panathinaikos defender also paid tribute to Giresse, saying the Frenchman’s role in rebuilding the Eagles has been crucial.

“If you see the work Giresse (and his coaching staff) did over the last two years, it’s fantastic,” said one of the defenders of the tournament.

“With his experience, not to mention the great player he was in the past, the coach is very helpful for us and for Malian football as we have many things to learn from him.”

Mali’s attention will now turn towards qualifying for next year’s Nations Cup and the 2014  World Cup qualifiers, which get under .way in June.

Despite the Eagles’ success in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, Kante is refusing to believe that his side will cruise to Brazil 2014.

“If we keep this spirit, I think we can go far and we can be optimistic,” he explained. “But to go to the World Cup is (not like qualifying for the) African Cup.

“There are only five teams who qualify – and with Cameroon, Nigeria and all these teams who are better than us normally, we have to prove that we can beat those teams.

“First, we have to beat Benin and Algeria and we’ll see if we can keep the spirit but I hope so.”

Rwanda are the fourth and final team to make up Group H of African qualifying for the 2014  World Cup – with the 10 group winners meeting in a play-off in late 2013.

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Aiteo Cup: Diri Hails Bayelsa Finalists

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Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has lauded the feat of the state-owned football teams who reached the finals in the male and female categories of the 2021 Aiteo Cup.
Diri, while congratulating Bayelsa United and Bayelsa Queens for their outstanding performances, praised their indomitable spirit and resilience in surmounting the odds to qualify for the last stage of Nigeria’s oldest football competition.
Bayelsa United, who plays in the second tier Nigerian National League, on Friday defeated Premier League neighbours Rivers United 1-0 in the semi-finals, while Bayelsa Queens crushed perennial rivals Rivers Angels 5-0 to reach the women’s final.
The Governor, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Daniel Alabrah, on Saturday, described Bayelsa United as “giant killers” for defeating Premier League sides Enugu Rangers, Lobi Stars and Rivers United on their way to the final.
“The excellent run of Bayelsa United and Bayelsa Queens in this year’s Aiteo Cup is very heartwarming. Both teams reaching the finals is no mean feat. I congratulate them for making the state proud and setting a record of teams from the state playing in the finals of the male and female categories of the same competition for the first time,” Diri stated.
“By their outstanding performance, Bayelsa United and Bayelsa Queens have shown that the sporting revolution of our Prosperity Administration, which resulted in Bayelsa placing third in the last National Sports Festival in Edo State for the first time, is on course. I therefore urge them to complete their excellent run in the competition by bringing home the trophies.

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D’Tigress To Play Mozambique In Afrobasket

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Nigeria’s senior basketball team, D’Tigress, have been drawn to face Mozambique and a yet to qualify team in Group B of the 2021 Women’s Afrobasket, which holds from September 17 to 27 in Yaounde, Cameroon.
The draw was held in Yaounde last Saturday.
D’Tigress will be hoping to retain the title they won two years ago in Senegal, where they defeated the hosts in the final. A win in Cameroon will mean they have won the last three editions of the tournament.
The Nigerians will know their final group opponent when the FIBA Zone 6 qualifiers take place from August 16 to 22.
In Group A, hosts Cameroon will face Cape Verde and Kenya, while Senegal, the most successful team in the competition’s history with 11 first-place finishes, will slug it out with Egypt and Gabon in Group C.
Mali, Ivory Coast, and a team to be decided via wild card will fight for a slot in the next round in Group D.

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Ebonyi Football Fans Celebrate Nwankwo Kanu At 45

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Football fans in Ebonyi State yesterday, celebrated the birthday of formerNigerian international and Arsenal legend, Nwankwo Kanu.
The former Super Eagles skipper turned 45 yesterday.
Tidespoets source gathered  that the 1993 FIFA U-17 world cup winner, fondly called “Papillo’’ by his fans had 86 caps for Nigeria.
The former Iwuanyanwu Nationale Football Club of Owerri’s talisman scored 13 goals for Nigeria in an enviable career that spanned from 1994 to 2010.
Kanu is a recipient of the Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), an Olympic Games football gold medalist and had illustrious club careers with Ajax Amsterdam of Holland, Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion of England.
Defunct Ebonyi Angels FC of Abakaliki Defender, James Onele, said that Kanu thrilled soccer fans across the world with sublime skills and trademark passes.
“Kanu won two African Footballer of the Year awards, an AFCON silver medal, four AFCON bronze medals among other honours.
“He was the first Nigerian, alongside Finidi George to win the prestigious UEFA champions league trophy with Ajax in 1995,” said Onele.
An Arsenal FC supporter, Ejike Okoro, said the club’s fans were proud of Kanu’s achievements during his time with the English Premier League side.
“Kanu played 197 times for Arsenal, scoring 44 goals and was part of the club’s invincible team that did not lose any match in the 2003-04 EPL season.
“He was instrumental in endearing Arsenal to millions of Nigerian soccer fans, despite later dropping to lowly-rated clubs such as Portsmouth and West Bromwich Albion,” Okoro said.
A banker and football enthusiast, Chief Barry Ogoh, told active footballers to emulate Papillo in investing adequately for the ‘rainy day’.
“Kanu, Augustine J.J. Okocha, among other ex-internationals are still financially stable as many ex-internationals have become bankrupt.

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