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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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Nigeria’s D’Tigers withdraws from 2025 AfroBasket qualifiers due to lack of funds

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Nigeria’s senior male basketball national team, D’Tigers, have withdrawn from the 2025 FIBA AfroBasket qualifiers dunking off in Tunisia on Friday due to lack of funds.

According to a press release by the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF), the “painful” withdrawal of the team from the window that could have given Nigeria another opportunity to qualify for the world championship was due to the inability of the Ministry of Sports to provide the federation with the needed funds for the qualifiers.

“In recent times, the female and male national basketball teams have not had the best in preparations for major continental and global championships, due to the perennial lack of funds,” the federation’s statement said.

“However, the financial burdens of ensuring national teams participate in these tournaments have been personally taken up by the President of NBBF, Engr. Musa Kida.

“While Kida, is yet to be refunded the billions of naira he has spent, the participation of the various national teams is in doubt as the federation is unable to raise more funds for the latest national assignment.

“The Ministry of Sports has not been able to come up with needed funds, citing lack of adequate funds to prosecute several other national engagements, including the forthcoming African Games holding in Accra, Ghana in March.

“The board of NBBF appeals to the ever-growing fans and lovers of the game in Nigeria and diaspora to understand the dire situation it found itself in view of the economic challenges faced by the country, even as it promised to redouble its efforts and commitments to the continued growth of the game in Nigeria.”

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Kelvin Kiptum: Autopsy reveals late Marathon record holder died from head injuries

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An autopsy carried out by the Kenyan government has revealed that late world marathon record holder, Kelvin Kiptum, died from severe head injuries in a ghastly road accident on February 11.

Kenya’s chief government pathologist, Johanssen Odour, told journalists at a press conference on Wednesday that the injuries were consistent with those suffered in motor vehicle accidents.

The 24-year-old rising star died in a car accident alongside his Rwandese coach Gervais Hakizimana in killed in a late-night accident near his home in north-western Kenya.

According to a release by his family, Kiptum will be laid to rest on Friday at his home village, Chepkorio in Elgeyo-Marakwet County, in what is expected to be a state event.

Kiptum rose to fame when he became a world marathon record holder when he set a time of 2:00:35 in the Chicago Marathon in October last year after switching to running the marathon from shorter distance races a year before.

At the London Marathon, he set a record pace and improved his personal best time by 50 seconds to beat the 2:01:09 record set by fellow Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, widely considered the greatest marathoner of all time.

Kiptum broke the course record for the London Marathon, winning the men’s event in the second-fastest marathon in history, crossing the finish line in two hours, one minute and 25 seconds.

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