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banner Saturday, 13 October, 2001, 13:12 GMT 14:12 UK
Mali shut out South Africa
Scoreboard at the new 26th March Stadium in Bamako
The capacity crowd of 50,000 in Bamako's new 26th March Stadium could not have asked for more from the match that inaugurated the Cup of Nations main venue.

Nineteen of Mali's professionals had made it home from Europe to play for the Eagles in the Bamako Tournament.

The spectacular first goal by Mahamadou Dissa at 25 minutes sent the crowd into a frenzy of delight, rare for Malian football fans lately.

The second goal by Alfousseyni Karembe, at 84 minutes, sealed the match for the Eagles.

New coach in Bamako

Malian fans went home relieved that their professionals had not humiliated the country.

A week earlier, a team of home-based players had lost 6-0 to French club Guingamp in France.

Romano Matte, who was sacked earlier this week as Eagles' coach, was with the team Friday evening to restore a little of his own credibility before he leaves the country.

Henri Kasperczak, who will take over at the beginning of November in time for the Amilcar Cabral Cup, was in the stands to see what potential his team has.

Sacked coach Romano Matte lends his support to Mali's Eagles
Sacked coach Romano Matte lends his support to Mali's Eagles

He also got a taste of the enormous pressure he will feel from Mali's public at CAN 2002.

Some Malian fans are now more optimistic about Mali's chances of impressing at the tournament which kicks off on January 19.

But others complained about the team's many missed chances during the first half of Friday's friendly match against a second string Bafana Bafana.

South Africa's goalkeeper Paul Evans managed to stop several shots from quick-footed Seydou Keita, but it seemed the Malians could do anything but score.

South Africa's Phil Masinga, who sat out much of the second half, said the Malians were worthy of congratulation for their solid teamwork.

In the second match of the evening, a valiant Gambian team struggled against the powerful Moroccans, who won 2-0.

Trouble outside stadium

While the Malian public view this tournament as a test of their football strength, the Mali Football Federation view view the event more as a test of Mali's readiness to host the African Cup of Nations, in three months time.

Even though things passed off smoothly inside the stadium, the same cannot be said of what was going on outside.

If they don't do something to improve access to the stadium, the Cup of Nations could bring disaster and deaths.
Diplomat at the stadium

There were many injuries as spectators holding valid tickets, and even journalists with press passes, tried to gain entry to the stadium through one of only two narrow gates.

Frustrated, they approached the gate through which diplomats and officials were able to pass in their vehicles, and wound up in ugly stampedes or beaten back by overwhelmed security guards.

An ambulance ferries injured fans to hospital after trouble entering the stadium
An ambulance ferries injured fans to hospital after trouble entering the stadium
Ambulances whisked off the injured, but no statistics are available on how many they were or how serious.

Fans outside were furious over the poor organisation, and the lack of parking facilities around the stadium.

Traffic was snarled up many kilometres from the stadium for hours, and tens of thousands of spectators had to head back into Bamako on foot in darkness, braving clouds of tear gas, dust and exhaust fumes.

'If they don't do something to improve access to the stadium and enlarge the road leading to it," said one diplomat in attendance, "the Cup of Nations could bring disaster and deaths."

See also:

10 Oct 01 |  Africa
Bamako's test of patience
11 Oct 01 |  Africa
Mali change coaches
20 Aug 01 |  Africa
Mali get serious
09 Sep 01 |  CAF club competitions
Full Nations Cup fixtures
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