It was all night partying for the fans of Ethiopia on Monday as their national team returned to the Africa Cup of Nations in style after a 31-year absence.
The Walya Antelopes, playing with a man less after goalkeeper Jemal Tassew was sent off for a professional foul, drew 1-1 with defending champions Zambia in front of their fans who outnumbered their opponents at the Mbombela Stadium.
Ethiopia coach Sewnet Bishaw had said that they were not under any pressure to perform during the competition.
“Ethiopia has already made history by qualifying for Afcon 2013 finals so we don’t have any further targets than gaining experience at this level and enjoying our participation,” he told Cafonline.
Hours after that game, which seemed like a win, Ethiopian fans ran around the city of Nelspruit rejoicing while chanting songs in Amharic. They waved their flags and hugged each other as it dawned on them that they had returned to the biggest football stage on the African continent – with a bang.
However, the reverse was the case for Nigerian fans who had anticipated a big win for their team who came up against Burkina Faso.
Nigeria fans anticipated a big win
The Super Eagles took the early lead via Emmanuel Emenike but were undone by good work from Jonathan Pitroipa who gave a man of the match performance. His pass to substitute Alain Traore unlocked the Nigerian defence as Vincent Enyeama was beaten in goal.
Crestfallen Naija fans walked away from the arena knowing how close they were to three points on the night. Some cursed the referee for some of the calls that went against their team. Unlike the Ethiopians fans who went violent when their goalkeeper was sent off, Nigerian fans were more tame and only booed the referee.
But the Super Eagles were unable to produce a miracle
There’s still a lot more to play for in Mbombela. All the teams in the group have a point each. Perhaps most panicky are the Zambians whose team looked like they weren’t ready for the tournament.
The Chipolopolo fans anticipate a big clash against Nigeria on Friday. It is set to be a group deciding encounter.
While the Ethiopians are happy to be back, they are not only enjoying the atmosphere, but they will be hoping to upset Burkina Faso in their next game to make a case for the knock out stages.
Group C is definitely shaping up to be an unpredictable lot after all.