DEMOLA OJO’S NILE NOTES
When Egypt was announced hosts of the Nations Cup, the script was for Champions League winner and African Footballer of the Year, Mohamed Salah, to lead his country to a defining and reputation-enhancing victory.
However, two other worthy superstars will be the centre of attention in the final today.
Senegal’s Sadio Mane also won the Champions League with Liverpool this year, while Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez – who won a domestic English treble with Man City – is a former African Footballer of the Year.
Both are on three goals, but only one will be crowned African champion along with his teammates.
The victorious one among them will be an overwhelming favourite to become Africa’s best this year.
Algeria Banking on 12th Man
Ever since the build up to their semi final match with Nigeria, Algerian fans have flooded Cairo in their thousands, most of them decked in their national team’s white jerseys.
The Algerians it seems, want this trophy more than anyone else.
Numerous fans told this reporter that they got free tickets from their football association to see matches. They have repaid the gesture with their passionate support.
Algerian fans have now been told that showing their international passports at the Cairo International Stadium gets them free entry to their end of the ground.
As if that is not enough, the government is flying in thousands of fans, in addition to the reported 15 airplanes that brought in a horde for the semi-final win against Nigeria.
There is also the preposterous claim that more Algerians will arrive by ship via the Mediterranean Sea!
It is a good bet that they will outnumber both Senegalese fans and neutrals at the stadium today. Whether this will translate to victory for the one-time African champions will be answered this night.
CAF Goes Tough on Journalists
Ahead of today’s Nations Cup Final between Algeria and Senegal, CAF has decided to go tough on overzealous and partisan journalists.
Journalists in the media centre are now banned from wearing national team jerseys.
This is in response to altercations between rival journalists, especially during the quarter final game between Senegal and Tunisia, when a free-for-all broke out.
Journalists have been tasked to maintain proper decorum and have been advised to get to the stadium at least five hours before kickoff.