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Ivorian keeper hero ‘Copa’ retires

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BOUBACAR-BARRYBRUSSELS, March 4- Ivory Coast goalkeeper Boubacar “Copa” Barry who became a national hero when he scored the decisive penalty in the Africa Cup of Nations final announced on Tuesday his international retirement.

The 35-year-old, who only played in the final against Ghana because first choice ‘keeper Sylvain Gbohouo was injured in the semi-final, saved two spotkicks and then scored the winning penalty in an epic shootout that finished 9-8 to the Elephants, giving them their first continental triumph since 1992.

Copa, who plays for Belgian side Lokeren, and his Ivory Coast teammates, as well as French coach Herve Renard, were welcomed home as heroes on their return by millions of Ivorians who flocked to the streets in Abidjan.

They were also given collectively 3 million euros ($3.4m) in bonuses by Ivory Coast president Alassane Ouattara in a package that included houses for the squad and conferred with the highest national honour the Knights of the National Order.

“All good things must come to an end,” Copa told Radio France International.

“I was extremely proud to wear the jersey of my country and it wasn’t just an obligation, it was an honour.

“Now is time to pass the flame to the younger players and there is a great new generation coming through so we have to let them develop.

“I think this is the best decision for me, I’ve been with the national team for 15 years,” he added.

He won 85 caps for his country and played at three World Cups after beginning his club career at Abidjan club ASEC Mimosas before joining French club Rennes in 2001 and a four year spell with Belgian club KSK Beveren.

Prior to February’s final he had auffred penalty shootout heartbreak in two other Africa Cup of Nations finals — in 2006 to Egypt and 2012 to Zambia.

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