JOHANNESBURG - Reuters
South African fans cheer before the group A football match South Africa vs Cape Verde at the 2013 African Cup. AFP photo
Unseasonably cold temperatures, hours of driving rain, uninspiring football and no goals marked a truly dismal opening day at the African Nations Cup on Jan. 19.
The eagerly-awaited 29th continental tournament, which has grown from humble beginnings in 1957 to an event of global interest, began with a 0-0 draw in a poor game between hosts South Africa hosts and debutants Cape Verde Islands.
The opener at Soccer City was followed by a better match between Morocco and Angola at the same stadium but that also finished goalless.
The only people who appeared genuinely satisfied with the first day, which most would rather quickly forget, were Cape Verde coach Lucio Antunes and his squad.
He was delighted they finished the match with a real belief that they can get good enough results against Morocco and Angola in their remaining Group A matches to avoid an immediate return to their island country at the other end of the continent.
“For me, it was mission accomplished,” said Antunes. “The team was excellent, we did the job we came to do and met our objectives and now we can concentrate on our next match against Morocco.
“I am happy, the players are happy and the technical staff are happy. We dignified our country today. It is a small country of 500,000 people, but we made them proud today.”
South Africa coach Gordon Igesund had a totally different perspective after a turgid, error-strewn game played in cold, wintry conditions with rain sweeping around the stadium.
However, the conditions did nothing to reduce the relentless drone of the vuvuzela, the plastic horn that provides an unforgiving, noisy backdrop to matches in South Africa.
“Not too many players came to the party in the first half, and we weren’t much better in the second,” Igesund told a news conference after what was a poor spectacle for an opening match watched live on TV by millions of people around the world.