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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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CAF launches African Super League to boost clubs

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The Confederation of African Football (CAF), has launched a new competition to be known as the African Super League aimed at injecting about $100 million into the continent’s football.

CAF President Patrice Mostepe who announced the new multi-million dollar deal in Tanzania during the launch of the new tournament on Wednesday, said the new league is aimed at injecting financial muscle to cash-strapped clubs on the continent.

For a start, 24 African clubswill take part in the first edition of the competition which is scheduled to kick off between August 2023 and May 2024.

Motsepe, who addressed a gathering of African football chairmen in Tanzania on Wednesday, said:

“The African Super League is a very important initiative. One of the major problems in Africa is finance.

“The Africa Super League is one of the most exciting developments in the history of African football and the objective in terms of what we are trying to achieve is very clear, to make sure African club football is world class and competes with the best in the world.

“Our intention is to use the $100 million as prize money and to do that every year in the African Super League, so that the club which wins gets $11.5 million,” he said.

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Tennis great, Serena Williams, announces retirement in emotional statement

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Tennis star, Serena Williams, has announced that she will retire from the sport after the US Open at Flushing Meadows which begins later this month

The 40-year-old 23-time Grand Slam champion has been the face of tennis since winning her first U.S. Open in 1999, but in a statement published by Vogue Magazine on Tuesday, said she plans to hang up her racket and bring an end to her active romance with the sport after playing again in the tournament.

Williams who last won a Grand Slam tournament while she was pregnant during the Australian Open in 2017, has been struggling to cope with the pace of the game after the birth of her daughter, Olympia, with hopes of equaling or surpassing Margaret Court’s record 24 Grand Slam titles going up in flames.

In an emotional statement in Vogue Magazine in which she will appear on the front cover for September’s edition, Williams said:

“I’m turning 41 this month, and something’s got to give. I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me.

Serena Williams has plans to call it quits with tennis (Photo Credit:WTA)

Serena Williams has plans to call it quits with tennis (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

“I’ve been thinking of this as a transition, but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people. Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution.

“But I’ve been reluctant to admit to myself or anyone else that I have to move on from playing tennis. Alexis, my husband, and I have hardly talked about it; it’s like a taboo topic.

“I can’t even have this conversation with my mom and dad. It’s like it’s not real until you say it out loud. It comes up, I get an uncomfortable lump in my throat, and I start to cry. The only person I’ve really gone there with is my therapist!”

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