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We’ll take our punishment, say shamed Senegal

DAKAR, Senegal October 15 – Senegal will accept punishment for the violent riot that caused their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Ivory Coast to be abandoned, team manager Ferdinand Coly told AFP on Sunday.

Ivory Coast players and fans were targeted by stones, bottles, and chairs hurled by angry Senegal supporters during Saturday’s game at Stade Leopold Sedar, after the visitors had taken a 2-0 lead for a 6-2 aggregate advantage in a qualifier for the 2013 finals in South Africa.

As fires were set in the stands and missiles rained down, the players — as well as some 300 visiting fans — were forced to take refuge in the centre circle, while the security forces used tear gas to quell the rioting fans.

“We are going to face some difficult days but Senegal will accept the sanctions,” said former international Coly.

“In the meantime, we must apologise to the Ivory Coast and make sure we do everything to avoid this happening again. I feel great sadness because this type of thing has no place on a football pitch or anywhere else.

“For the players, it was traumatic, especially the young ones. The psychological work needed will be extremely difficult.”

Senegalese politicians also waded into the controversy on Sunday.

“It’s a shame, it’s regrettable,” said Mbaye Ndiaye, the Senegal interior minister.

“But we say bravo to the Ivory Coast team for their achievement, their behaviour, their wisdom, and their sense of fair play.”

Trouble broke out in the 60,000-capacity stadium after a penalty converted by Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba 15 minutes from time gave the top-ranked African nation a 2-0 lead.

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China-based Drogba, the eldest player in a ‘golden generation’ of Ivorian footballers chasing elusive Cup of Nations winners’ medals, also scored the opener from a powerfully struck free-kick soon after half-time.

After a 40-minute delay while security officials battled to restore calm, the match was abandoned and Ivory Coast are sure to be awarded the tie and a place at the tournament in South Africa next January and February.

Confederation of African Football (CAF) officials made no immediate comment on the violence, but Senegal are expected to face severe punishment, with a number of options available.

These include forcing Senegal to play competitive matches outside the country for a specific period and banning the country from a certain number of qualifying competitions for the premier African football tournament.

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