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Wednesday, 2 February, 2000, 11:40 GMT
Ivory Coast football squad detained
Ivory Coast team
The "Elephants" were eliminated after three matches
By West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle

Ivory Coast's national football squad has been detained by the military authorities in an army camp following its elimination from the African Cup of Nations, which is currently taking place in West Africa.

A spokesman for the military government of Ivory Coast said the squad was being held for its own protection, to guard against possible reprisals by angry fans.

The Ivory Coast team, known by its nickname, the Elephants, was eliminated from the tournament after three matches.

They beat Ghana with a respectable 2-0 score line, but only managed a draw against the much smaller state of Togo and were then thrashed 3-0 by Cameroon, one of the best clubs on the continent.

'Fell apart'

Ivorian fans said the team seemed to fall apart during the match with Cameroon and they said they were angry because each of the mostly foreign-based players was reported to have received the equivalent of thousands of dollars to represent the national side.

Friends of the players are now making their way to the military camp to try to obtain the squad's early and safe release.

This incident shows once again that soccer is not so much a sport in Africa as a religion.

Foreign teams

Most of the members of the detained 22-member Ivory Coast national squad play for clubs in Europe.

Many are in French or Belgian teams, but one player, Olivier Tebily, plays for the Scottish side, Celtic.

Meanwhile, the African Nations Cup competition continues.

This year fixtures are being played for the first time in two neighbouring states, Nigeria and Ghana.

Four national teams have so far qualified for the quarter finals. Egypt and Senegal are through, as are the two teams which helped knock out the unfortunate and now incarcerated Ivorians: Ghana and Cameroon.

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See also:

31 Jan 00 | Cup News
Agony for Ivory Coast
28 Jan 00 | Cup News
Elephants crash to defeat
13 Jan 00 | Cup Teams
Team profile: Ivory Coast
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