The African Nations Championship got off to an explosive start on and off the field in Cameroon over the weekend.
On Saturday, the host nation beat Zimbabwe 1-0 in the opening match in Yaounde, but two days earlier, a bomb exploded outside the Limbe Omnisport Stadium, where Namibia is scheduled to play its matches.
According to goal.com there were no fatalities, but several vehicles were destroyed, while the local Fako Action Forces (FAF) claimed responsibility for the explosion.
According to the Cameroonian News Agency, attempts were also made to burn the walls of the stadium, while FAF issued a statement warning that Limbe, which forms part of the Fako region, will not be safe.
“There will be no Chan 2021 matches in Fako and our civilians are warned not to fall victim. Limbe will be a dangerous ground going forward,” the statement read.
All but one of the Group D matches will be hosted at the Limbe Stadium, as well as a quarterfinal and a semifinal match. The first match is scheduled to take place at 18h00 tomorrow between Zambia and Tanzania, while Namibia will make its debut at the same venue three hours later.
The separatist movement Ambazonia had earlier declared that Limbe was a war zone and that the Confederation of African Football would be held liable for any loss of life.
The Namibian squad, meanwhile, arrived in Buea, the capital of the Southwest region on Friday, after a long flight. Buea is only 22km inland from Limbe, but the head of the Namibian delegation Izak Fredericks said their security was top-notch.
“Security protocols are observed and in place, and we were actually escorted from Douala Airport to Buea, where we will be for the next two weeks. We had our first training session under strict security measures this morning, while we have also started acclimatising,” he said on Saturday.
“We are comfortably settled and taken care of, our training facility is up to standard and meets all the requirements, and as far as the spirit is concerned, it is exploding – it”s really high and ít’s a wonderful experience to be here,” he added.
Brave Warriors captain Dynamo Fredericks reiterated his views, saying that they were in high spirits.
“Today’s training was very light – we had jet-lag after a long flight, so we just had a light run-out today,” he said.
“The weather is good and the spirit in the team is quite high. All the boys are focussed and everyone is happy to be here and we are looking forward to the game on Tuesday,” he added.
Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions, meanwhile, gave the host nation something to cheer about with a deserved victory against Zimbabwe in Group A.
Cameroon dominated possession from the start and had it not been for the poor finishing by especially by midfielder Alfred Meyong, and some great saves by Zimbabwean keeper Ariel Sibanda, they could have won by a much bigger margin.
Sibanda pulled off a diving save from Meyong in the 18th minute, while the midfielder blasted over the bar three minutes later.
Striker Bryand Soga had a header cleared off the line by Zimbabwe defender Shadreck Nyahwa on 30 minutes, while Soga once again headed narrowly wide just before the half time break.
Meyong wasted some more chances in the second half, heading wide in the 67th minute, with an open goal mouth gaping, but Cameroon finally got the winner five minutes later.
From a corner, the ball bounced loose to Salomon Banga Bindjeme, who buried it into the net with a spectacular bicycle kick.
Zimbabwe barely had a shot at goal, with their best chance coming when Nyahwa shot wide just before the break, but their coach Zdravko Logarusic was not too perturbed about the result.
“This is not the end of the world. We will play two more games and we have every chance of securing a place in the quarterfinals. It’s up to us to study our mistakes and correct them before our next meeting against Burkina Faso,”he told cafonline.com
The second Group A match between Mali and Burkina Faso was a close affair, with both sides wasting several scoring chances.
In an even first half, Soumaila Quattara and Clement Pitroipa all came close for Burkina Faso, while Demba Diallo missed an easy chance for Mali.
Mali started to take control after the break and finally broke the deadlock on 70 minutes through a great header by Siaka Bagayoko that looped over finally breaking the deadlock with a great looping header from a corner in the 70th minute.
Two Group B matches were scheduled for Douala last night, with Libya up against Niger, and the Democratic Republic of Congo taking on neighbours Congo, while two Group C matches are also scheduled for Doula tonight, with the defending champions Morocco taking on Togo, while Rwanda take on Uganda.