Equatorial Guinea Steps Into Football Spotlight

Equatorial Guinea Steps Into Football Spotlight

A young boy in the mainland city of Mbini, Equatorial Guinea, bounces a football off his head, no doubt imitating his favorite footballers.

In many ways, he’s no different than millions of other boys and girls on the continent with an affinity for the sport. But this young fan was having his fun on January 30, 2015, in the middle of the Africa Cup of Nations tournament. And this year, the biennial event took place in his home country, from January 17 to February 8.

The tournament came to the small Gulf of Guinea nation of 720,000 people when Morocco, the original host, backed out in 2014 due to the raging Ebola crisis.

Equatorial Guinea, which was not affected by the Ebola outbreak, stepped in as host, even though it has only two major football stadiums — Nuevo Estadio de Malabo, which holds 15,250 spectators, and Estadio de Bata, which holds 37,500, the International Business Times reported.

Sixteen teams competed for the title, and Equatorial Guinea made it to the semifinal, where it lost to Ghana, 3-0. Ghana went on to face Côte d’Ivoire, which won 9-8 on a thrilling penalty shootout after scoreless regulation play.

Not long after the final, there was cheering in a neighboring country. Gabon was selected to host the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.