Africa

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Burundi qualifies for Africa Cup of Nations for first time

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BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) Burundi has qualified for the African Cup of Nations for the first time after holding Gabon to a 1-1 draw in Group C to collect the point it needed.

Burundi is the third team set to make its debut at an expanded African Cup in Egypt in June and July. Madagascar and Mauritania had already booked their places.

Burundi’s draw at a packed Prince Louis Rwagasore Stadium on Saturday meant it ousted Gabon and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for a spot at the tournament.

After starting cautiously, Burundi led through Cedric Amissi’s goal in the 76th minute. Omar Ngando’s own-goal with eight minutes to go gave Burundi a nervous finish. Victory for Gabon would have seen the Gabonese qualify instead.

Burundi held on to clinch the second qualifying place in the group behind Mali and make history for a country that has been trying to reach Africa’s top tournament since 1976.

This year’s African Cup has been expanded from 16 to 24 teams, opening the way for unheralded teams like Madagascar, Mauritania and now Burundi to qualify.

Liverpool duo, Aubameyang are CAF Player of the Year finalists

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Mohamed Salah‘s bid to become the third player to win consecutive African Player of the Year awards faces some stiff competition.

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Salah (Egypt) is joined by Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane (Senegal) and Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon) as finalists for the confederation’s award, set to be handed out Jan. 8 in Senegal.

The Egyptian won in 2018 — his first year as a finalist — edging second place Mane and third place Aubameyang last year. Aubameyang won the award in 2015, and Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez claimed the honors in 2016.

Salah will be the heavy favorite despite Aubameyang’s outstanding year, if only because he was the lone member of the three to appear in the 2018 World Cup.

Still injured from a Sergio Ramos challenge in the UEFA Champions League Final, Salah scored both of the Pharoahs goals as Egypt failed to claim a point in a group with Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Uruguay.

Salah already won the BBC’s award. Surprisingly, Aubameyang was left off the BBC’s five-man shortlist, which instead chose Kalidou Koulibaly, Mehdi Benatia, and Thomas Partey. That’s trying a bit too hard, in this man’s view. Alex Iwobi and Wilfred Ndidi were also denied by the CAF.

El Hadji Diouf, Samuel Eto'o, and Yaya Toure were the others to win back-to-back African POTY honors.

Ethiopia-Eritrea thaw continues with plans for soccer game

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) Ethiopia and Eritrea will meet in a football friendly next month, another move marking the swift end to their 20-year state of war.

Ethiopia’s state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported the game will take place in late August in the Eritrean capital Asmara.

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The match will be the first between the East African nations in more than two decades. It comes amid a surprising and sudden diplomatic thaw between two countries that fought a border war from 1998 to 2000 that killed tens of thousands.

The first step to ending one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts came last month when Ethiopia’s reformist new prime minister fully accepted a peace deal that ended the border conflict.

Since then, the leaders of the countries have visited the other and agreed to reopen embassies. Commercial flights between the two have restarted.

Ghanaian FA “dissolved” while men’s team plays Iceland

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Ghanaian president Nana Akufo-Addo has announced the dissolution of the nation’s Football Association.

The announcement comes as Ghana played a friendly in Iceland. The Black Stars failed to qualify for the World Cup.

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An undercover reporter filmed Ghana’s Kwesi Nyantakyi, a member of FIFA’s council, accepting a bribe as part of a widespread investigation into African football.

According to the BBC, a Ghanaian official cited the “widespread nature of the apparent rot” in the FA as reason for its dissolution. The BBC also saw the video, which showed Nyantakyi “placing $65,000 ‘shopping money’ into a plastic bag from an undercover reporter pretending to be a businessman keen to invest in Ghanaian football.”

From GhanaWeb:

According to the Sports Minister, Isaac Asiama, the dissolution of the league also means “all other activities related to the FA have been suspended until further notice.”

“We are going to put in place structures to ensure that we get in touch with FIFA and CAF to have a dialogue to get normalcy in place,” he told Joy News’ Evans Mensah on Newsnight, Thursday.

Morocco to spend $16B on 2026 World Cup venues, infrastructure

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Morocco says it will need to spend almost $16 billion to prepare to host the 2026 World Cup, with every proposed stadium and training ground built from scratch or renovated.

With less than three months until the FIFA vote, the north African nation on Saturday presented details of its proposal to take on the joint bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The North American bid plans to rely on existing infrastructure, including large NFL stadiums already hosting events.

When FIFA insiders score the bids, infrastructure – of which half relates to stadiums – will account for 70 percent of the panel’s mark. The remaining 30 percent is based on projected costs and revenues. A high-risk bid can be disqualified before the FIFA Congress votes on June 13.

Morocco says for $3 billion it can build nine stadiums, refurbish five others and build or renovate 130 training grounds.

That is part of the $12.6 billion in public investment that also requires hospital services being upgraded in 20 cities and transport networks improved for the first 48-team World Cup.

The bid says another $3.2 billion of private investment is required to build hotels.

Morocco’s bid team told The Associated Press that the projections had been “carefully costed” but could not provide a breakdown on how the figures were reached.