My favourite AFCON memory harks back to the year 2000 when Ghana and Nigeria co-hosted. To say it was a challenge to watch this competition is an understatement! This marked the era before internet streams and mass football broadcasting in North America. As recent immigrants to Canada, my family carried over our footballing passion but were faced with few avenues to keep it nourished. This meant less football viewing on weekends, but this was a final with two of Africa’s footballing giants in Nigeria and Cameroon. A well-established diaspora network allowed us to get our hands on the prized VHS recording of the final, two days after it was played. Alhamdullilah for the complete lack of interest in African football from Canadian sports media at the time. It meant we could rest easy knowing there was little chance the result could be spoiled.
The final with a top-billing did not disappoint. Dazzling technique, goals, intrigue, and controversy. It had it all! The scoresheet was opened by a young teenage prodigy, one Samuel Eto’o Fils, and Cameroon quickly stormed to a surprising 2-0 lead over the favoured Super Eagles. It seemed as though the tide had turned and only a crossbar stopped the Indomitable Lions from asserting their dominance. Yet, this was only the beginning of the show played before a delighted sell-out crowd in Bamako. The Super Eagles, ushered on by the sound of blaring trumpets, quickly drew level with two goals, including a stunning strike from the legendary Jay-Jay Okocha. Wide-open back and forth play could not break the deadlock and 120 minutes of nail-biting drama had to be settled by the random cruelty of penalty-kicks.
What followed is very familiar to all Super Eagles supporters. A well struck Victor Ikepba spot-kick ricocheted off the top of the cross-bar back to the ground, tantalizingly close to the goal-line. At first glance through the grainy Arab Radio and Television Network recording it appeared as though Ikepba missed a golden chance. But a replay clearly showed that the ball had crossed the line! A decade before Frank Lampard, the first famous justification for the use of goal line technology could be found. To this day, many are convinced that long-time CAF autocrat Issa Hayatou (CAF’s Cameroonian “life president”) was behind the missed call. The late Marc-Vivien Foe missed his chance to lift the Indomitable Lions to glory, but captain Rigobert Song did not hesitate to put it away and claim the first trophy in a golden year for Cameroonian football.
Recent developments have made AFCON viewing much simpler on this side of the Atlantic. This year the competition will be carried by a network available on cable TV, a development that I would never foresee 15 years ago. Despite this, nostalgia ensures the 2000 final continues to rank above all. Let’s hope Equatorial Guinea 2015 comes close!
Mohammed’s is one of the winning entries in our AFCON Memories competition with AMS Clothing, and he wins a national team jersey from the AMS range.
Thanks to AMS Clothing, kit suppliers to the national teams of Sierra Leone and South Sudan, for providing prizes for our AFCON Memories competition. We caught up with AMS founder Luke Westcott, and asked him to explain a bit more about how AMS got started, what makes it distinctive, and where it’s heading.
“Founded in late 2013, AMS recognised the social, as well as commercial opportunities presented in the hugely popular, yet largely informal football industry in Africa. This recognition came about after traveling to Africa and discovering that the only football apparel available for purchase at a reasonable price were low-quality, counterfeit products. Many of these products were the national team apparel of each respective country we travelled to. This led to the idea of becoming the official national team suppliers, and then providing the respective national football federations with the opportunity to offer their official products to the domestic market, at a price that meet the market demands. This means that fans can purchase official products, featuring cool designs, at a fair price, whilst supporting their national football federation in the process. Furthermore, we also supply the international market through the AMS online store and a few other retailers. This allows us to raise revenue and expand to further countries.
“The main focus we highlight to FA’s as to why they should choose us is the opportunity we provide them to effectively commercialise on the popularity of the national team. Many of the smaller federations never receive revenue from apparel sales, even when they are supplied by major sportswear brands. Many of these brands do not make apparel available for purchase, and if they do, it is often at a price that is way too expensive for most people in the domestic market. Furthermore, all our designs are customised and are created to the specifications of the FA. We never use boring template designs, and always try to design something interesting that will be popular with local fans.”