Zimbabwe v Nigeria, Saturday 1st February 2014, 5pm

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The final of the 2014 African Nations Championship took place in Cape Town on Saturday, following the third place play-off match in a double-header at the World Cup stadium. Whilst it’s a tournament that hasn’t really captured the interest of most football fans over here, it was a good enough reason for Jen and I to fly south for the weekend.

The day before the game we paid a visit to Robben Island, where we were given a tour by one of the former political prisoners.

I bet they didn't leave that door open in the old days.

I bet they didn’t leave that door open in the old days.

He was an interesting bloke and he talked warmly of his time on the island, perhaps understandably focusing on the camaraderie, the political discussions and the women’s tennis on the telly rather than the days spent breaking rocks and the nights in a cell shared with sixty other blokes.

I was extremely tempted to ask him if he had learned his lesson and behaved himself since he got released but managed to resist the urge. Sometimes it’s better not to blurt out everything that comes into your head.

Nelson Mandela's cell.

Nelson Mandela’s cell.

The journey to and from the island took about forty five minutes each way. In addition to the seals and what looked like sea-snakes but might very well have been bits of rope or seaweed, we got a good view of the World Cup stadium with Table Mountain in the background.

I should have used the camera with the zoom lens.

I should have used the camera with the zoom lens.

The place that we were staying at was within walking distance of the stadium and so the next day we had a stroll along the seafront prior to the 5pm kick –off of the third place play-off between Zimbabwe and Nigeria. It was all very picturesque and I got the impression that the area down by the beach was one of the safest areas that we’ve been to so far in South Africa.

Hardly any murdering going on.

Hardly any murdering going on.

There were only a handful of fans around as we arrived at the turnstiles. In fact we were heavily outnumbered by stewards and security staff. We had no bags to search and so the only delay was being stopped to be given a whistle each by one of the tournament sponsors. Quite odd really as whistles are one of the few things that I’d quite happily have security confiscating on the way in.

It made a rare and pleasant change for me not to be driving after the game and so I headed straight for the beer stand and for a can of Castle at just over a quid. That’s how it should be. Take note UEFA, with your overpriced non-alcoholic Carlsberg at the European Championships.

There's that mountain again.

There’s that mountain again.

We had seats in the main stand, just to the right of the media section. Our allocated seats were in row three, but as we didn’t fancy staring at the back of a dugout we sat a few rows higher up. It didn’t matter as I don’t think the attendance for that first game ever got above five thousand or so.

The standard of play was poor, although I suppose with the players being drawn exclusively from the Zimbabwean and Nigerian domestic leagues I shouldn’t have expected much more. I’ve no idea how many of the players feature in the regular national team, but it couldn’t have been many.

Zimbabwe started their time wasting early on, perhaps on the basis that taking the tie to penalties might have been their best option. Their antics got even worse though once they had one of their strikers sent off for an assassination attempt on the opposing keeper.

The view to the left.

The view to the left.

The ref did his best to try to keep the game flowing but with Zimbabweans taking turns to writhe on the turf, he had his work cut out. He managed to reduce the delays by refusing to allow the physios on to the pitch, insisting instead that each player be stretchered off without any prior examination.

Effective as that move was with the outfield players, it didn’t work with the Zimbabwe goalie who took full advantage of his special status. Eventually, after four treatment sessions and a lengthy pause for lace re-tieing, a yellow card cured him.

The time wasting backfired on Zimbabwe as with just five minutes left one of the Nigerian fellas steered a header into the far corner to put his team ahead. The goal sparked a remarkable increase in urgency from Zimbabwe, but it was too late for them to do anything about it and third place in the tournament slipped away.

A goal up, it was Nigeria's turn to waste some time.

A goal up, it was Nigeria’s turn to waste some time.

We slipped away too, the lure of an evening out by the waterfront being a more tempting prospect than hanging on for the final. For those interested, Libya won the competition on penalties, after they and Ghana had played out one hundred and twenty minutes without a goal.

One Response to “Zimbabwe v Nigeria, Saturday 1st February 2014, 5pm”

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