DURBAN, South Africa, February 5- In Africa one does not greet and walk away. Greetings come with its compliments of best wishes,prayers and even praise.
Like greetings African football holds its own charm and behind or beyond the game there is an abiding attachment which keeps drawing many to its fold.
One contact with the game especially at tournament level,one hardly walks away sometimes gripped by an inexplicable fever of varied emotions.
Little wonder the first of the African Nations Cup to be played at an odd-numbered year has been aptly tagged “the beat at the African feet ”
But for Mali,a nation dripping with celebrated music talents ,the beat is not only in their players feet but also in their cry and tears.
Ever since the now retreated Islamic insurgents usurped control in the historic Saharan city of Timbuktu the people and government of Mali have not known peace,seeking and rallying support from all corners to chase away the ugly invaders.
With military support from West Africa states inspired and spearheaded by Frances military and logistical might the people of Timbuktu found their home again and joy tinged no doubt with the sad,terrible destruction of one of the world’s priceless libraries loaded with manuscripts defying age.
Somehow the Malians are picking up the pieces and at the weekend which they rolled out the drums to thank and appreciate the inimitable padding received from France and her visiting president Monsieur Hollande.
Football , yes football found a way to lift a nation and show its power to heal the wounds of yesterday and stir up a fresh sense of unity and purpose.
And fittingly so the home of Nelson Mandela has provided the impetus of this new face of Mali-one free from war and ready to expose her many gifts.
The symbol of this redeeming drive is a player who came close to winning the African Player of the year in 2011 and has been decorated as World and European club champion with his erstwhile club Barcelona FC. Blessed with a sweet left foot and a rare vision of the game that stands him out as a winner.
Seydou Keita is a true Eagle who has settle his score with fame and wealth and is poised to carry the burden of leading a nation out of the woods of under-achievers.
Strikingly Seydou shares the same surname with one of Africa’s soccer legends Salif Keita celebrated and treasured for his exploits in Europe but also leading Mali to their first-ever final in the 1972 Nations Cup which they lost 1-0 to Congo Brazzaville inside the Ahmadu Ahidjo staduim in Yaounde Cameroon.
Salif ,a fearsome goal getter in his playing days,was also Mali’s top scorer in that edition of the Nation Cup just in the same manner Seydou is doing now,providing the goals that matter.
South Africa has not forgotten his equaliser which took the quarter final crunch to extra time and saw the host out in the shoot-out.
Seydou is always alive to his role in the team as captain did not take any of the spot kicks,obviously conscious of the performance of stars in such dramatic moments. No doubt Seydou has seen Mali struggle to make an enduring impact in the Nations Cup.
He was part of the team that failed to reach the final in 2002 when Mali hosted. He knows the pain of coming close and not winning the trophy.
Having glittered in Europe will he still find the shine in Africa in his twilight years?
Is this the last battle cry for a player who has voiced his willingness to deep hands in his pocket and support the demands of the team.
Seydou is an acclaimed warrior,not loud with words but decisive in action.
In I999 still under-20 he showed the array of skills that helped Mali knock out host Nigeria out of the World Youth championship.
That was in Calabar ,the same city in which the Super Eagles confirmed their qualification ticket for the on-going Nations Cup.
On Wednesday inside Mabhida staduim in Durban, Keita will lead his Eagles to a semi final war against the Super Eagles of Emmanuel Emenike and Victor Moses, rising stars waiting to shine.
How will these Eagles all of west african descent end their fight for glory….Surely Seydou will not love to greet the crowd and walk away. This is Africa waiting for his last hurray!
– AIPS Website