African Cup returns to exotic Gabon, but with air of unease

first_imgJOHANNESBURG (AP): With an air of unease hanging over the tournament, the African Cup of Nations returns to Gabon for the second time in five years. Opposition parties in the oil-rich central African nation have stated their intention to use African football’s biggest show as an opportunity to express their grievances against Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who retained power in a tense election last August that led to about 100 deaths on the streets, according to opposition claims. That gives African football organisers, who chose to go back to former co-hosts Gabon as a replacement for Libya, even more to contend with alongside shaky infrastructure and two largely untested new stadiums. Libreville, the capital city of palm tree-lined Atlantic Ocean beaches and French colonial villas, and Franceville, deep inland in the jungle and the last stop on the railway line that cuts across the country, staged games when Gabon co-hosted with Equatorial Guinea in 2012. Now, Gabon gets the 16-team, 23-day tournament all to itself, bringing in two new venues that have barely seen any kind of football before, let alone a top international championship involving European league superstars. Oyem, a town in the far north surrounded by rubber plantations, will be home to defending champions Ivory Coast for the group stage. Hopefully for Manchester United defender Eric Bailly and teammates, they’ll be in one of only a few hotels listed with the luxury of hot water. Port-Gentil, the southern centre of Gabon’s oil industry, is the second new city. Both have stadiums that were being built right up to deadline and not many have set eyes on the finished, or possibly unfinished, products. The African Cup always has vibrant colour, fans painted head to toe and in an array of wacky outfits, and competing countries you’re unlikely to ever see at the World Cup, even when it’s expanded: Guinea-Bissau qualified this year, their first appearance at a major tournament and the first time they have really come anywhere close to the big time. But the African championship is also an event that flirts with calamity. Two years ago at the tournament in nearby Equatorial Guinea, there were brawls between players on the field and riots in the stands when security forces waded in among supporters wielding batons and an army helicopter hovered so dangerously low in the stadium that its rotors whipped up debris and scattered the spectators. Among the title contenders over the next three weeks kickoff is today and the final on February 5 Ivory Coast is striving for the rare achievement of back-to-back African titles after the team finally ended a long drought two years ago. There are two significant absences for the Ivorians this time, though, with powerful midfielder Yaya Toure, its driving force last time, retired from international football and victorious coach Herve Renard now in charge of group opponents Morocco. Algeria and Senegal produced eye-catching performances in qualifying, with those teams spearheaded by Premier League talents Riyad Mahrez of English champion Leicester and Sadio Mane of Liverpool, respectively. Ghana have lost two finals and three semi-finals in the last five tournaments and will continue their increasingly desperate search for a long-awaited first title since 1982, and, they hope, an end to African Cup misery. Absenceslast_img read more

PBA: Meralco routs Blackwater

first_imgMarcosian mode: Duterte threatens to arrest water execs ‘one night’ MOST READ PBA IMAGESMeralco got it going early on both ends en route to a 107-78 whipping of Blackwater in the 2017 PBA Governors’ Cup Friday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.Baser Amer scored a team-high 20 points on top of eight assists while Allen Durham had 18 points and 21 rebounds for the Bolts, who zoomed to a 32-15 lead after the first 12 minutes and never relented.ADVERTISEMENT Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next McGregor blasts Cerrone in 40 seconds in UFC return Filipinos turn Taal Volcano ash, plastic trash into bricks PLAY LIST 01:40Filipinos turn Taal Volcano ash, plastic trash into bricks01:32Taal Volcano watch: Island fissures steaming, lake water receding02:14Carpio hits red carpet treatment for China Coast Guard02:56NCRPO pledges to donate P3.5 million to victims of Taal eruption00:56Heavy rain brings some relief in Australia02:37Calm moments allow Taal folks some respite View comments OSG plea to revoke ABS-CBN franchise ‘a duplicitous move’ – Lacson ‘I’m out!’: PewDiePie releases last video before taking break from YouTube 787 earthquakes recorded in 24 hours due to restive Taal Volcano Kawhi Leonard, Clippers rally to beat Pelicans “It was exactly the kind of start we’re hoping for. We came out pretty strong defensively,” said Meralco head coach Norman Black. “We were able to pick up some stops in the first quarter and our offense started to click.”Minus the injured Art dela Cruz and Mac Belo, who is with Gilas Pilipinas for the Jones Cup in Taipei, the Elite couldn’t draw enough offensive support from their locals to back up their import Trevis Simpson.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSEnd of his agony? SC rules in favor of Espinosa, orders promoter heirs to pay boxing legendSPORTSRedemption is sweet for Ginebra, Scottie ThompsonSPORTSMayweather beats Pacquiao, Canelo for ‘Fighter of the Decade’Simpson had game-high 25 points on 9-of-21 shooting from the field to go along with eight rebounds. Bam Gamalinda was Blackwater’s next best scorer with 10 points.The Elite fired blanks from downtown, missing all of their 13 attempts. They shot just 35% from the field and were out-rebounded, 64-46. Indian national gunned down in Camarines Sur LATEST STORIES End of his agony? SC rules in favor of Espinosa, orders promoter heirs to pay boxing legend Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. LeBron James scores 31 points, Lakers beat Rockets Standhardinger says relationship with Chot now at a higher level The Bolts shot 48% thanks to their good ball movement that led to 27 assists.Garvo Lanete added 15 points, all of which came from long range for Meralco, which nailed 11 3-pointers.The Bolts stretched their lead to as high as 39, 93-54, early in the fourth quarter.ADVERTISEMENTlast_img read more