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Beyond Soccer: Top 5 most exciting African football rivalries

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The 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifying two-legged playoff between Ghana and Nigeria is considered by many as one of the biggest rivalries in African football, and this is by no means a fact.

Over the years, the two countries have had one of the fiercest footballing battles on the continent at all levels, with such matches often dubbed “fights to finish.”

The two countries’ first official meeting was a World Cup qualifier in 1960, where Ghana defeated the Super Eagles 4-1 at the Accra Sports Stadium, and since then, they have been locked in decades-long rivalry which many see as one of the best in African football history.

The Super Eagles of Nigeria have won three AFCON championships to the Ghana Black Stars’ four, but the last of their triumph came in 1982 and between then and now, Nigeria has won two in 1994 abd 2013.

Their head-to-head records have also been very tight, with Ghana winning 19 times to Nigeria’s 16.

The first leg of the playoff will take place on Friday, March 25, at the 40,000-capacity Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi, with the second and final game taking place on March 29 at the 60,000-capacity Abuja National Stadium.

But beyond the Nigeria vs Ghana rivalry, there are other of such exciting and fierce battles involving other countries on the African continent which soccer fans always look forward to.

Here are the top five most exciting African football rivalries.

1. Nigeria vs Ghana

The rivalry between Nigeria and Ghana is one of the fiercest and most exciting at all levels.

From the senior national team level to the lowest cadre, including female teams and club football, this is one rivalry many football fans look forward to and the World Cup qualifiers on March 25 will not be an exception.

The footballing rivalries between the two countries have been taken beyond soccer as the two countries and their citizens have taken it upon themselves to try and outdo each other in others spheres of life, including business and other socioeconomic endeavours.

With the two countries parading an array of stars like Victor Osimhen, Samuel Chukwueze, William Troost-Ekong, Leon Balogun, Moses Simon (Nigeria) and Thomas Partey, Jordan Ayew, Baba Rahman, etc for Ghana, the rivalry will not come to an end soon.

2. Algeria vs Egypt

Unortunately, Algeria and Egypt have been spared the joy and agony of facing each other in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, but clashes between the two countries have always been feisty and gutsy, filled with underlying passion.

Any encounter between Algeria and Egypt has become one of the most infamous rivalries in the history of football as clashes between the two Northern African giants is entrenched in deep roots.

It all began with Algeria’s resentment over Egypt’s refusal to play a team that was spreading awareness about Algeria’s struggle for independence to the 1989 incident where an Egyptian team doctor lost an eye from a bottle thrown by an Algerian player.

Since then, any matchup between the two countries often leads to clashes between the fans, making it one of the fiercest and ugliest rivalries in African football.

Egypt may hold the record as the most successful team as far as AFCON is converned, but against its eternal rivals, they only boast a miserable record having won only 2 and lost 5 of their previous 9 clashes.

Their most recent of such clashes, however, was a 4-0 thrashing of Algeria by Egypt on their way to winning its 7th AFCON title in 2019.

3 Ghana vs Ivory Coast

Another very exciting African football rivalry fans eagerly look forward is that between West African neighbours, Ghana and Ivory Coast.

The two countries are, unarguably, powerhouses when it comes to African football, and their clashes over the years have been quite gritty, reminiscent of clashes between Nigeria and Ghana.

They have been glamorous affairs and a matter of prestige as the players would do everything possible to win.

Out of a total of 14 clashes in the Cup of Nations, Ivory Coast hold the advantage in this rivalry with 8 wins, with Ghana only managing to get 5 wins and 1 draw.

Ghana has failed to beat Ivory Coast in six meetings, including the final of the 1992 Nations Cup which they lost 11- 10 on penalties.

Their most recent clash was at the AFCON tournament in 2015, with Ivory Coast repeating the ’92 feat, beating Ghana 9-8 on penalties again.

4. Nigeria vs Cameroon

The footballing rivalry beyween Nigeria and Cameroon has always been one where the players give their all, including sweat and blood, and are ready to die on the pitch rather than experience defeat.

Over the years, Nigeria and Cameroon have had some memorable clashes both in the Nations Cup, World Cup qualifying matches and even in friendlies.

The first time the two countries met at the Nations Cup final tournament was in the 1984 edition and Cameroon had a certain Roger Milla in their line-up.

But while Milla didn’t score in the match, he was instrumental to Cameroon claiming their first title with a 3 – 1 win over the Super Eagles.

Nigeria’s misfortune against Cameroon was to continue over the years and in their next meeting in the 1988 finals of the tournament, the Indomitable Lions pipped the Eagles 1 – 0 to win their second title.

Their clash in the bronze medal match in 1992 served as some consolation for Nigeria as they beat Cameroon to pick third place but in the finals of the 2000 edition held in Nigeria, Cameroon, this time with a certain Samuel Eto’o, defeated Nigeria 4-3 on penalties after a 2 – 2 draw, to claim their third trophy, again at the expense of the Super Eagles.

No wonder any meeting between the two countries is always seen by fans as one to look forward to.

5. Ivory Coast vs Senegal

Another exciting African football rivalry has always been the matchup between Ivory Coast and Senegal.

The two countries have met at both the AFCON and World Cup qualifying matches on four occasions which have always turned into a tense moment.

Their first meeting was in 1965 and most recently in 2012, and the rivalry has been nothing short of healthy and enjoyed thoroughly by fans.

The storyline of those meetings were mostly built on expectations for Ivory Coast to maintain their dominance as a footballing powerhouse, with Senegal making breakthroughs whenever they could.

But in recent years, the Teranga Lions have been on the upward climb and any meeting between them and their eternal rivals is one that would bring the fans on the edge of their seats as was witnessed at the last AFCON where Senegal beat Ivory Coast on their way to the trophy.

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South African Akani Simbine beats Omanyala to pick 100m gold at Atlanta City Games

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South African sprint sensation, Akani Simbine, on Saturday at the Atlanta City Games further put a dent on Kenyan 100m African record holder Ferdinand Omanyala’s claims of being the continent’s king of sprint by pipping him to the second spot.

The defeat by Simbine meant that Omanyala was handed his second 100m defeat in less than a week.

Omanyala who is Africa’s fastest man at the moment and Commonwealth Games champion has however, insisted that the two successive defeats he has suffered does not take anything away from his position as Africa’s sprint king as he is taking a different approach to his season and has noted that he will only peak when the time is necessary with the main focus being the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

After the heats, Omanyala noted that they shall be keen to take a day at a time and improve on the weak areas

“We are taking it a race at a time and it’s a long season where the main target is the Olympic Games so we are not going to peak too early this time and we are handling each race as it comes and improving on the important areas,” Omanyala said.

At the Atlanta City Games proper, Omanyala had a great start off the blocks and seemed to be in great shape to take the win Simbine had the better chance as his finishing was top notch.

Athletics World reports that
Simbine crossed the finish line in a world leading time of 9.90 while Omanyala came in second in 10.10.

“After the race, Simbine was over the moon and noted how it was important to represent his country with pride and place their name on the world map,” the report said.

“You know I’m representing South Africa and I’m happy with the win and I’m so happy to be out here. I’ve always been part of the conversation. I’ve never left so we’ll see.”

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Egyptian midfielder Elneny announces departure from Arsenal after eight years

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Egypt and Arsenal midfielder, Mohamed Elneny, has announced his departure from the club at the end of this season after eight years at the North London club.

Elneny who made the announcement in a video on Friday, said he will depart the club following the expiration of his contract.

Elneny joined Arsenal from Swiss side Basel in 2016 and made 161 appearances but in the last two seasons, the Egyptian midfielder has struggled for playing time due to a combination of injuries and loss of form.

In 2019, under former manager Unai Emery, he was loaned out to Besiktas for the 2019-20 campaign, where he played 36 times for the Turkish side.

Upon returning to Arsenal, he found a more prominent role under new manager Mikel Arteta.

Elneny’s contract was due to expire at the end of last season, but Arsenal opted to extend it by an additional year. With this extension now coming to an end, it has been widely reported that the 31-year-old will leave the club this summer.

In the video on X, Elneny said:

“Gooners, I’m here today to send you a message. To say goodbye and thank you for everything you’ve done for me, the love, the support, and the kindness. I am really going to miss you so much and you will be in my heart forever.

“I wanted to say how much I love you and how much you mean to me. I will never forget the way you supported me. I am going to see you on Sunday at the Emirates Stadium to say goodbye face to face.”

He added that he would bid farewell to fans at the Emirates on Sunday as Arsenal host Everton in their final league match.

Though Elneny did not say where he would go after leaving Arsenal, it is believed he will be heading to the Saudi Arabian league to join a horde of elite players who have made the Saudi League the new football haven.

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