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Congo claims maiden CHAN
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 12 - 03 - 2009

DR CONGO made history by becoming the first team to win the inaugural African Nations Championship (CHAN).
The Leopards of Congo beat Ghana 2-0 in the final played on Sunday at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Abidjan.
Second half strikes from Kaluyituka Dioko and Mbenza Bedi ensured the Congolese became the first winners of the competition restricted to footballers playing in their country of birth.
The result was also a perfect revenge for the Leopards, who had suffered a 0-3 loss at the hands of their West African counterparts in their earlier meeting at the group phase.
It was a well deserved victory for the Congolese as they completely outplayed the Ghanaians to claim their first major championship since the 1974 African Cup of Nations feat in Cairo, Egypt.
The Congolese started brightly and made clear their intentions from the very beginning with deadly striker Tresor Mputu Mabi coming close twice in the first and fourth minutes.
The Congolese appeared more organised and confirmed that with dominance in possession as the Ghanaians laboured in search of the rhythm.
On the 12th minute mark, Black Stars goalie Philemon MacCarthy scored full marks as he parried away Mputu's goalbound shot from a goalmouth action.
For Ghana, Asampong Taylor's drive with the outside of his right foot and Ibrahim Ayew near misses was all they could boast of as an attempt at goal in the early stages.
The Congolese were very swift on the counter and anytime they moved the Ghanaian defence was found wanting.
Ghana's Black Stars were unlucky to have gone up after Edmund Owusu-Ansah header from Taylor's cross missed narrowly after the latter had headed past onrushing Leopards goalie Kidiaba Muteba.
The Congolese resumed the second half strongly and took the lead under a minute into the half through Kaluyituka who headed home from Lofo Bongeli's cross, which beat the Ghanaian defence.
The Leopards maintained their dominance and succeeded in authenticating their lead on 74 minutes through Mbenza Bedi who blasted past MacCarthy from Lofo again from the left.
The remainder of the game belonged to the Congolese as they taught their Ghanaian counterparts some football lessons, characterised by circuit passes as the packed crowd jeered on.
Cote d'Ivoire, hosts of this maiden edition of the CHAN, passed on the mantle to next hosts, Sudan for the 2011 edition.
The passing-on of the mantle was one of many scenes that climaxed the closing ceremony of the inaugural championship.
Local Organising Committee Chairman Jacques Anouma handed over the CAF flag to Mutasim Gafaar, vice president of the Sudanese Football Association flanked by CAF President Issa Hayatou.
The host nation was also presented with a trophy dubbed "Reconciliation trophy" by the United Nations for the successful hosting of an event "that has unified the entire populace."
The closing ceremony that preceded the final was climaxed with musical performance from some top Ivorian artistes including DJ Lewis.
But it was the all-rhythmic football game that drew the applause of the over 35,000 persons at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium, among which included Cote d'Ivoire President Laurent Gbabgo.
The performances kept the fans on their toes and the icing on the cake was the spirited performances by the two teams in the grand finale.
Eights teams competed in the inaugural edition of the newest competition on the CAF calendar.
Given Singuluma (Zambie) was named top scorer with five goals, Alain Kaluyitukadioko (DR Congo) was second with three goals while Bongeli Lofo (DR Congo),Yaw Antwi, Ibrahim Ayew, Edmund Owusu Ansah (Ghana), Alpha Oumar Sow (Senegal) and Philip Marufu (Zimbabwe) scored two goals each.
Charles Asampong Taylor (Ghana), Ahmed Osman (Libya), Trésor Mabi Mputu (RD Congo), Mamadou Baila Traoré (Senegal), Mbenza Bedi (DR Congo), Mrisho Alfani Ngasa, Nsajigwa Shadrack (Tanzania), Dennis Banda, Simon Bwalya (Zambia), Ovidy Karuru (Zimbabwe), each scored once.
The tournament's final ranking came as follows: DR Congo, Ghana, Zambia, Senegal, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Libya and Côte d'Ivoire.


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