KABS KANU: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 January 2022:
Sierra Leone erupted in jubilation today, with thousands of ecstatic people streaming through the streets of Freetown , grinding pot covers, beating drums and screaming victory songs in sheer passion, after the national football team, Leone Stars, stunned the soccer world once again by forcing yet another African giant, two-times Champions Ivory Coast to a 2-2 draw in the ongoing AFCON 22 in Cameroun.
The result , which has given Sierra Leone two points in the competition after also drawing 0-0 with the reigning African Champions Algeria last week in another gallant performance that brought pride to the nation, leaves the Leone Stars poised to do the impossible—progress into the next round from the Group of Death, where they were expected to have been slaughtered.
If they beat Equatorial Guinea on Thursday, Leone Stars will qualify for the Group of 16.
What is most amazing and impressive about Leone Stars’ two results is that they are against two countries that are considered the giants of African football.
Said Social media activist, Yankuba Kai-Samba : “If you can draw with the defending African champion Algeria and Ivory Coast you have what it takes to bring the cup home.”
With the Ivorians leading 2-1 and seeming to take all three points, Leone Stars theatrically tied the game at stoppage time, when substitute Alhaji Kamara, who came in in the 75th minute to replace Mustapha Bundu, tapped the ball over the goal line, after the Ivorian goalkeeper Badara Sangare fumbled a defensive back header on the right side . Steven Caulker squared excellently for Alhaji Kamara and his scuffed finish found the back of the net.
It was an obdurate and resolute performance, characteristic of the new Leone Stars that have made the nation proud . They never gave up when they fell behind twice and such a resilient display by Leone Stars won the hearts of soccer fans all over the world.
A thrilling match of high drama
The first dramatic moment of the game came in the 10th minute when star goalkeeper Mohamed Nabile Kamara , who was man-of -the match in the Algeria game, saved a penalty kick , given after Skipper Umaru Zingaley Bangura, fouled Wilfred Zaha. Kamara, who has already won international spotlight and will likely be signed by a foreign side , dived and deflected the ball out of touch brilliantly from Frank Yannick Kessie. Another excellent goalkeeping display from him kept Leone Stars in the match when the Ivorians dominated the first half.
But Kamara could not stop the dominant Ivorians from taking the lead in the 25th minute when the defence left a lot of space for Zaha to float a great pass that was seized upon by Sebastian Haller , who stabbed past the goalkeeper.
Sierra Leone could have equalized before half time but Buya Turay, one-on-one with the Ivorian goalkeeper, was thwarted as the goalie stuck out his hand to deny him a certain goal.
The undaunted Leone Stars , who trailed 0-1 at half time , came back with renewed determination in the second half and Musa Tombo Kamara justified the outcry of the nation for him to be in the starting line-up when he equalized in the 55th minute , after swivelling past a defender before swinging the ball into the top corner.
Sierra Leoneans maintained a spirit of jubilation on social media, but Leone Stars fell behind again in the 65th minute when the Ivorians staged a beautiful combination after Sierra Leone forfeited possession and the ball got to Arsenal striker Nicholas Pepe who bent a curving shot past diving goalkeeper Kamara.
It would have been worse for Sierra Leone but for a magnificent goal line save by the experienced Kei Kamara who stopped the Ivorians from putting away the tie.
And it was just as well, because the still unruffled Leone Stars continued fighting and were rewarded deep in stoppage time with the equaliser that sent thousands of jubilant citizens into the streets to celebrate.
Once again, a whole nation united behind its national football team and the jubilation is continuing well into the night.
Watch highlights of the match here:
Arrogance can be a curse. Ivory Coast one of the gaints of African football have gone into this tie thinking its going to be easy as taking a walk in the park. Now if the Leone Stars were thrown in to the limpopo river full of crocodiles and asked to swim or sink to the other side, well the other African football teams nestling under the water, hoping to make a meal of them are in for a rude awaking. The group of death is now taking a whole new different meaning, the group of the survival of the fittest in the jungle of African football.
Two nill down and coming back from that and scoring a last minute injury time to equalise, says something about the character and determination of our Leone stars players, that booking their return tickets will have to be put on hold. The doors to this competition is now thrown wide open.Not even a Voodoo priest or an African witch doctor is capable of predicting the inevitable outcome. If Tiny Gambia, with a population that you can fit in a football stadium, can top their group, it says a lot about this African nations footballing tournament that is already creating records and breaking records. For the first time since its foundation in the 1950s, the three countries that founded it is taking part. Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, The problem with the big African teams, and their players, their performance or creativity is only lasting maybe in the first half. Then they tend to take their eys off the ball. But with the smaller countries like ours, the players knows this is a 90 minutes plus added time games. So there is no room for complacency.
The Leone Stars knows, the game is not over until is over. And that is when the referee blows his final whistle. Mr Kamara the Sierra-Leonean goal keeper has been a revelation. After the African cups of Nations, I can see European footballing gaints like Barcelona, Manchester United FC, or other teams that want to win silver ware coming knock at his door. To me not taking away the efforts of his team mates, he is turning to be the Man of the tournament. Good luck to te Leone Stars.
Really another masterpiece by Kabs Kanu, a description and analysis which may be equalled but not surpassed. His handling of our boys’ defense should be taken extremely seriously. If our boys can tighten everything in the eighteen yard area through watertight man-marking and leave those upfront to do the rest I believe we are going places, not just now but in the future. They should mark the forwards and not watch them. Right now they make us feel as if the world is in our pockets, it’s a wonderful feeling.