Adebayor slates sandy African Cup semifinal field

Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor has fiercely criticized the sandy

field that will host a semifinal at the African Cup of Nations,

calling it ”a disgrace” and embarrassing for the continent.

The Tottenham forward said the sandy and bumpy pitch at Mbombela

Stadium in Nelspruit badly undermined African football and will

lead people in Europe to think the teams are playing ”in the

bush.”

Togo held Tunisia to 1-1 at Mbombela on Wednesday to reach the

quarterfinals for the first time, after which Adebayor said ”it’s

a disgrace for our continent to be playing on this pitch when it’s

on the TV around the world.”

”Once again we are in Africa, the African Cup of Nations is a

big tournament for Africa – the whole world is watching this,” he

said. ”You can’t play on a pitch like this. Those people that

watch the game in Europe, they will be sending SMS’ to me …

asking me, `Are you playing in the bush or what?’ It’s a disgrace

to our continent, we can do better.”

Adebayor’s criticism came as tournament organizer the

Confederation of African Football was to hold its mid-tournament

review on Friday. While South Africa was expected to be praised for

better attendances at this cup, the poor Mbombela field has

undoubtedly been an eyesore and had already been criticized by the

Zambia and Nigeria teams.

Television audiences will have seen sand constantly kicked up by

players and the ball often bouncing unevenly at Mbombela for the

group games there. The field will also host Togo’s quarterfinal

against Burkina Faso on Sunday and one of the semifinals.

”CAF have to sort things out to solve the problem,” Adebayor

said. ”At the end of the day we are all African and we have to be

honest with ourselves. It’s a beautiful stadium but the pitch is

not happening.”

The problems with the Mbombela field reportedly arose after days

of heavy rain in the northern city of Nelspruit just before the

tournament, leading officials to lay sand on the surface to prevent

it becoming waterlogged.

Zambia coach Herve Renard said the poor surface was a major

reason why his defending champion side was eliminated in the group

stage, having struggled to play on it.

The cup has generally been well organized, with only the

Mbombela field, a few instances of poor refereeing and the

misbehavior of Ethiopian fans in their team’s opening game against

Zambia the standout problems.

CAF was expected to provide an update of ticket sales on Friday,

with the tournament already expected to be a vast improvement on

the last one in 2012.