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PostPosted: Wed Dec 24, 2003 2:44 pm 
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The year that was will always be remembered in Africa for the untimely death of Cameroon player Marc-Vivien Foe, who collapsed and died during a semi-final clash between his country and Colombia in the FIFA Confederations Cup France 2003.
The Indomitable Lions went on to reach the final of the competition, and although they lost 1-0 against the hosts, Foe, the man and the footballer, were on everyone’s mind. His and his team’s abilities were on display earlier in the competition when Cameroon shocked the watching world with a 1-0 victory over World Champions Brazil. The goal came from Spanish-based Samuel Etoo's sensational long-range effort seven minutes from time.

A year to forget

Unfortunately, Cameroon's performance at the FIFA Confederations Cup was the only time that the continent impressed on a global stage in 2003. All three African representatives (Cameroon, Sierra Leone and Nigeria) were knocked out in the first round of the FIFA U17 World Championship in Finland in August - the first time ever this has happened at the tournament.

There was similar disappointment several months later in the United Arab Emirates, where Egypt, Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone were eliminated in the round of the last-16 at the FIFA World Youth Championship. Mali had been knocked out after the first round already.

In the Women's World Cup, Nigeria and Ghana continued the tradition of Africa not playing an important role, as they both crashed out in the first round. The Black Queens of Ghana at least managed to beat Australia before returning home.

Talent still rising

But it was not all gloom and doom for the continent’s football supporters, as several African players continued to emerge on the European stage. Burundian-born Congo DR international striker Shabani Nonda topped the scoring charts in France at the end of the 2002/3 season. His career however suffered a setback midway through the year and after a serious injury at the start of the new season ruled him out for several months. His club Monaco signed Spanish international Fernando Morientes to replace him, and have done quite well in his absence. With Nonda away, another African star took centre stage in France – Zimbabwean Benjamin Mwaruwaru, whose goals for Auxerre persuaded the club to extend his contract till 2008.

[color=brown]Jay Jay Okocha[/brown], who first burst onto the scene as a teenager with Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt, played an important part in English Premier club Bolton Wanderers’ successful attempts to retain their Premiership status, while his immensely talented compatriot Obafemi Martins was one of the young stars at Serie A club Inter Milan. In Spai,n Cameroon’s Etoo was the star of the cup final as he helped his club Mallorca win the trophy and qualify for Europe.

The continental scene

Africa, of course, also had its fair share of exciting domestic and continental action and star performances as the Beautiful Game continues to attract keen interest from Cape to Cairo even without most of the big-names of African football.

[color=red]Enyimba[/red] from Aba became the first Nigerian club to become African champions as they beat Egyptian club Ismaili 2-1 on aggregate. There was some consolation for North Africa though as Tunisia’s Etoile du Sahel beat Nigeria’s Julius Berger 3-2 on aggregate to lift the last Cup Winners’ Cup, which is being streamlined into the CAF Cup. There was also glory for Morocco’s Raja Casablanca, who triumphed over Cameroon’s Cotonsport in the CAF Cup.

In the qualifiers for the 2004 African Cup of Nations, Zimbabwe finally got rid of the stigma of being the perennial under-achievers of African football by qualifying for their first-ever continental finals. But only just, as they nearly let it slip -- allowing Mali to top the group in the end. But the Brave Warriors, led by England-based Peter Ndlovu, qualified as the best second-placed team. Footballing minnows, Rwanda and Benin caused huge upsets in the same competition, as they ousted Ghana and Zambia respectively, to qualify for their first-ever Nations Cup finals.

In an attempt to prevent fixture congestion, the African Zone were permitted to double-up the pre-preliminary competition for the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ with that of the 2006 Nations Cup and these matches were played, even before the draw for the preliminary FIFA World Cup competition had taken place. For the remaining teams, the qualifiers for the showpiece of international football will begin soon after the 2004 African Nations Cup is completed in Tunisia.

With so much at stake for African football, 2004 promises to be yet another bumper year for African football.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 24, 2003 9:23 pm 
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Marc Vivien Foe rest in peace.

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