The stars of FIFA Club World Cup runners-up TP Mazembe were humbled today as title holders Congo DR suffered a stunning 2-0 loss to Cameroon in the African Nations Championship. It was the second shock in as many days at the biennial tournament for home-based footballers as South Africa came from behind to rock Ghana 2-1 yesterday.
Hosts Sudan, Algeria, Niger and Ivory Coast were other weekend winners in the expanded 16-team championship and the final two first round games take place Monday with Rwanda facing Senegal before Angola meet Tunisia.
Mazembe talent not enough
Mazembe supplied 11 of the 23 footballers Congolese coach Muntubile Santos took to the biggest country in Africa to defend a title won in Abidjan two years ago. Barely known outside Africa until last December, the club based in southern Congolese copper mining hub Lubumbashi turned the football world upside down in Abu Dhabi by dumping Brazilians Internacional in the semi-finals.
Inter Milan of Italy won the final comfortably with record four-time African Footballer of the Year Samuel Eto'o from Cameroon among the goals, but the Mazembe magicians had lifted African football to a higher plateau. A decades-old dominance of the competition in its various guises by European and South American clubs was over and the unique celebratory style of goalkeeper Muteba Kidiaba could be admired around the globe.
Kidiaba reacts to Mazembe or Congolese goals by sitting in his penalty area and then using his bottom to bounce along the ground -- no mean feat given the hardness of some African surfaces. But the 34-year-old netminder with funky dreadlocked hair did not have any opportunity to bounce about today as Cameroon scored in each half through Julien Moumasso and Ismaila Baba to top Group C after the opening matches.
Cameroonians' floodlit awe
Cameroon coach Emmanuel Doumbe admitted before the game in Omdurman, across the river Nile from Sudanese capital Khartoum, that some of his footballers were so raw they trained under floodlights for the first time last week.
"I wondered why my players were mistiming so many headers from crosses until some of them admitted they were distracted by the novelty of floodlights and were constantly staring at them," he confessed in a pre-match interview.
Ivory Coast defeated Mali 1-0 through a 23rd-minute Zoumana Kone goal in the second game to banish fears they would flop again after finishing bottom of a group when hosting the first Nations Championship two years ago.