Libya’s CHAN fairytale journey

Libya’s CHAN fairytale journey

by Stephane DeSaintsalvy

Sunday Feb 02, 2014. 11:11

The dramatic political and social turmoil that
Libya has been experiencing since the civil war broke out in 2011 prevented
them from hosting CHAN 2014, but who would have predicted them winning it?

But winning the trophy is exactly what they
did in South Africa, beating Ghana on penalties after a 0-0 result after extra
time in Saturday's final.

Deprived of all national competitions between
2011 and 2013, the local Mediterranean Knights had managed to qualify for the
tournament’s finals thanks to the withdrawal of a more fancied Algerian side.

Libya travelled to South Africa only to learn
and gain experience under the guidance of their new coach, Javier Clemente, who
took over the job last October.

But a 2-0 surprise victory over Ethiopia in
their Group C opening game followed by a 1-1 draw against group favourites
Ghana boosted their confidence.

Libya booked their ticket for the knock-out
stage in dramatic style with an extra-time equaliser against Congo in their
last first round encounter, and there was no way Gabon, Zimbabwe or the Black
Stars could stop them.

The best side might have not won at the end,
and while fans did not witness the most entertaining of cup finals, it was one
that can teach you many lessons.

Clemente’s boys were not out to secure a World
Cup spot or to impress agents and scouts. They were just fighting for their
suffering country and people, and once again football has rewarded the side
which showed the most determination as a team through the competition.

And what a morale boost for the Libyan people
who had their biggest celebration since the revolution.

“Libya’s football team has managed to do what
the politicians have spectacularly failed to do – bring the country together,”
said a fan in Tripoli after the game.

Libya will host the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, and no
doubt that they will give it all to extend their South African fairytale.

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