Monday, January 31, 2011

A slight departure across the Atlantic, simply because there is a chance photo… for Africa is ever tough to find on print. The African Champions Cup was won by Hafia (Conakry), winning both legs of the final against Enugu Rangers (Nigeria): 1-0 at Conakry and 2-1 at Lagos. For the club hailing from Guinea (there is one more Guinea down there, so they are often distinguished by their capitals – Guinea Bissau and Guinea Conakry) already won the Cup – in 1972. They were to win it one more time – in 1977 – and generally the 1970s were the best years of the club known back in the 1960s as Conakry II, seemingly, second-tier club of the city.
Hafia also was practically the national team of Guinea, although the players meant nothing elsewhere – perhaps the greatest was Cherif Souleymane, voted best footballer of Africa in 1972. Yet, what was unknown to outsiders was important back home: Cameroonians watched and followed closely the exploits of Hafia, eventually getting excited and improving themselves. At the end Cameroon and not Guinea (and not even Ghana, recognized as the best footballing nation of ‘black’ Africa in the 1960s and 1970s) impressed the world, but by then Guinean football was already in decline or at least no longer improving. Not so during the 70s – Haifa were minor legends, sporting fancy nicknames, including one guy called ‘Kolev’ after the Bulgarian striker from 1950s-early 60s Ivan Kolev.
Hafia during their glory years and getting their second African Champions Cup: bottom, left to right: Kerfalla Jacob Bangoura, Mamadou ‘N’jolea’ Keita, Ali ‘Petit Sory’ Keita, Yanski (?), Bengally Sylla.
Top: Morcire Sylla, Djibril Diarra, Naby Laye ‘Papa’ Camara, Cherif Souleymane, Abdoulaye ‘Banks’ Keyta Sylla, Thiam Ousmane Tollo.
What to say? I can’t even establish one name, but something else is discoverable: the curious case of Morcire Sylla. In different years he is listed as goalkeeper, midfielder, and central defender. Obviously capable of playing any position. In my opinion the importance of this club for the development of African football is neglected at best: Europe did not care to get news and what was happening in Africa was largely unknown.