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Friday, 5 April, 2002, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
Magic fades in Mali
The March 26 Stadium in Bamako
The March 26 Stadium remains locked and empty

Two months after the end of the African Nations Cup in Mali, Malians are starting to see the gloss fade.

The tournament was generally considered a success, with the host nation exceeding expectations by reaching the semi-finals and subsequently placing fourth.

The government spent $200m to host the continent but it has not kick-started the expected football revolution in the country.

Six new stadiums, built for the tournament, are locked.

With virtually no other football grounds to play on, youngsters keen to hone their skills play on the roads and risk the possibility of being knocked down by speeding vehicles.

Tradition

"There is nowhere else to play," says Abdulla Kanute, one of the many Malian youths practising their football on the roads of Bamako.

"If we tried to get into the stadium we'd just be chased away."

A Malian boy retrieves a football from a sewer in downtown Bamako
Mali's young talent play in open sewers
Amadou Diakite, the president of Mali's FA, says street football is a tradition in the country and is not a sign that the government is neglecting football.

"We have good organisation and a good team," he said.

Considering its meagre financial resources, Mali did a good job of hosting the tournament.

If Mali's footballing infrastructure is made accessible to the public, the enthusiasm its people have for football would ensure that they are put to judicious use .

The exploits of Seydou Keita, Bassala Toure and Mahmadou Bagayoko have given ambitious youngsters a glimpse of what life as a successful footballer can be like.

Many are keen to follow in their heroes footsteps.

See also:

11 Feb 02 | Cup of Nations
18 Mar 02 | Africa
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