And moments after the victory, even more fans took
to the streets, sounding their car horns and letting off fire-
works, celebrations which continued well into the night.
In a prolonged nail-biting final, the Mediterranean
Knights of Libya edged clear finalist favourites, the Black
Starsof Ghana, 4–3, ina shootout after thematchat Cape
Town stadium failed to produce a goal after 120 minutes
of regulation and extra time.
The crowning glory for Libya was particularly sweet
as it atoned for the loss to the same opponents on home
soil over 30 years ago in the final of the main Africa Cup
— AFCON 1982 — held in Tripoli. Ironically, Ghana won
that title 7–6 on penalties.
And in beating Ghana, Libya managed to win its first
major soccer trophy in the international arena, giving a
huge boost to domestic sporting hopes at a time when
the country is still trying to find its feet after years of tur-
moil and civil unrest.
That turmoil was quickly forgotten when the trium-
phant Knights returned home with their winning trophy.
The moment everyone had been waiting for came on
February 3 when the squad flew in to Benghazi, the sec-
ond-largest city in Libya.
Progress to the quarterfinals
According to the
Libya Herald
newspaper, thousands of
fans descended on Benina International Airport to wel-
come their heroes and security personnel had a tough
time keeping the huge crowd back as fans raced on to
the runway chanting “Libya, Libya”.
The team later held a procession through some of
the city’s principal streets, before leaving for Tripoli
the following day. There they were welcomed at Mitiga
International Airport by government officials, including
Minister of Youth, Abdul Salam Guaila.
In the competition, Libyawere positioned inGroup C.
The Knights got their campaign off to a perfect start with
a 2–0 win over Ethiopia. But then they had to come back
from a goal down to draw with Ghana 1–1. Against other
Group challengers, Congo, the score finished 2–2. But
the Knights had done enough to progress to the quarter-
finals as Group runners-up to eventual finalists, Ghana.
The11-metre success in the final wasactually a famil-
iar story for the Libyan sharpshooters who, in the quar-
terfinals and semifinals, had to get their team through
on penalties against Gabon (4–2) and Zimbabwe (5–4),
respectively.
For Ghana, the outcome of the final representedmore
penaltypain.TheWest African countrywasknockedout in
shootouts in the semifinals of last year’smain Africa Cup
and the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup. However,
the Blackcats were victorious in one shoot-out — in the
South African Championship semi-final, when they put
out Nigeria on penalties, 4–1.
And if not for the local unrest, Libya could have been
celebrating its success in front of a home crowd. It was
originally down to host the 2014 Championship, but had
to hand it over to South Africa because of the unstable
domestic situation. However, all going well, Libya will
now stage the 2017 competition.
Libya’s coach, former Spanish manager and mid-
fielder, Javier Clemente Lazaro, said after the final that
the win was good for the Libyan people, for the growth
of the sport and for social stability.
“I have put a lot of passion into this team— they have
playedwithenthusiasmandprideand theyfullydeserved
this trophy,” he was quoted as saying.
Nail-biting tension
for Libyan soccer
fans watching the
penalty shoot-out
final in a cafe in
Benghazi.
37
OPEC bulletin 2–3/14
Reuters
Shutterstock
All lit up ... the scene of Libya’s victory — Cape Town stadium.
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