Equatoguineans make riot excuses as Gabon deny plane-trashing claims

By Brian Oliver
Equatorial Guinea fans were given another chance despite their riot at Thursday’s Africa Cup of Nations semi-final, which the Malaba venue co-ordinator attempted to brush over and blame on the Confederation of African Football for appointing a Gabonese referee, before making an extraordinary claim about a rival team trashing a local airplane.

The Confederation of African Football’s disciplinary panel initially ordered the hosts to play their third-place play-off against DR Congo behind closed doors because of the missile-throwing that led to a 40-minute suspension of the match against Ghana, who won 3-0. But the ban was suspended by Caf’s executive, though, “to promote a spirit of fair play and brotherhood”. They will come down hard on the hosts if there is any further trouble in Saturday’s game, which takes place at the same stadium in Malabo.

Equatorial Guinea were also fined $100,000 for ‘aggressive behaviour’ – the second time they have been fined for the same offence. They had to pay $5,000 for their fans’ unruly behaviour in the controversial quarter-final against Tunisia in Bata, after which the Tunisians were also sanctioned.

According to Caf, 36 people were injured during the latest trouble. Ghana fans were pelted with bottles of water, rocks and other missiles, before they escaped to seek safety behind the goal at pitch level. They were treated on site by medical staff and 14 were taken to hospital. One of the Ghanaians needed “close monitoring” at hospital.

Ghanaian officials were furious. Kwesi Nyantyaki, president of the Ghana FA, said the “unprovoked violent attacks” should be heavily punished, while the GFA said in a tweet that the match had been “like a war zone”. Jonathan Mensah, the Ghana defender, said the players were worried while they waited on the pitch. “We were scared. Seeing our fans getting this kind of treatment wasn’t good for us. We were just happy it was controlled.”

But Fadipe Ambrosio, the venue co-ordinator for Malabo who works for Equatorial Guinea’s federation (Feguifut), was surprised to hear of the injury toll.

“I did not hear of any Ghanaians being taken to hospital,” he said, before claiming that the crowd had been furious from early in the game, when a refereeing decision went against the hosts. He put part of the blame on Caf.

“Why did they appoint a referee from Gabon?” he said. “That’s what made the crowd so angry.”

While there is a long-running dispute between the neighbouring countries over a maritime boundary, Ambrosio pointed to reports of an incident after their group game, reports which have been since denied.

In the final group match, Equatorial Guinea defeated Gabon to progress, with the help of a contentious penalty. Ambrosio claimed that the Gabonese flew home to Libreville from Bata on an Equatoguinean plane that, when it returned, had been “badly vandalised, with the seats and fittings all damaged”.

“There were a lot of bad feelings about Gabon here, and Caf knew that,” Ambrosio told  Goal .

The Gabon Federation outright denied these claims, insisting that the team did not even travel with a local airline, as was claimed, let alone trash the plane.

“Gabon’s team traveled 15 January 2015 from Libreville to Malabo to Bata by a Gabonese airline (Allegiance) special air plane,” Gabonese Football Federation president Pierre Alain Mounguengui told Goal . ”The return took place on 26 January 2015, on the same plane (Allegiance) from Bata to Libreville.

“I hope this information… convinces you of the bad faith of your informants.”

All but a few hundred of the 15,700 crowd at the Ghana game were ‘home’ fans. It was the first time such a number of locals had turned up at the Nuevo Estadio de Malabo since the tournament started on Jan 17. For earlier games in Malabo – most of them double-headers – there were several thousand supporters of Mali, Cameroon or Ivory Coast in the crowd, and very few Equatoguineans.

Ambrosio predicted that, despite Caf allowing supporters to attend the third-place play-off, few supporters would bother.

“They are very disappointed, and they will stay at home,” Ambrosio predicted. “I think the stadium will only be a quarter full.”

Perhaps Caf’s executive realised any supporter ban would be a hollow one – but it does not detract from Africa’s governing body’s inability to guarantee security and fairness for visiting fans.

For more Ghana football news visit www.ghanasoccernet.com

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