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
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
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.