Libyans are still reveling in their historic feat of being crowned champions at the recently held 2014 Orange African Nations Championship (CHAN) in South Africa.
The ‘Mediterranean Knights’ beat the highly favoured Black Stars of Ghana 4-3 on penalties in the final last Saturday in Cape Town, to claim their first ever continental silverware. During the match, huge crowds gathered at squares in major cities such as Tripoli and Benghazi to watch their team cruise to the unexpected achievement. In the national capital, Tripoli, the crowd even defied a downpour to watch the game on large screens in cafés, describing the rains as showers of blessing that powered the team to the crown. Moments after the game, more fans stormed the streets, cars honking their horns and fireworks dominated the celebrations deep into the night. According to local daily, Libya Herald, the biggest celebrations were recorded in Tripoli and Bengahzi, whilst Misrata and other cities and towns also were not left out. The victory meant so much for the country engulfed in political instability during the last three years that, Sunday (February 2) was declared a public holiday by the Government. It was to afford the citizenry ample time to celebrate whilst awaiting the arrival of the jubilant team from South Africa. Earlier, coach Javier Clemente had revealed how crucial the victory was for Libyans “This win is good for the Libyan people, for the growth of the sport and social stability. I have put a lot of passion in this team, they have played with enthusiasm and pride and they fully deserved this trophy. I hope winning this trophy has been massive for Libya and its people,” he told Cafonline.com after the final.
The moment everyone had been waiting finally came on Monday (February 3) when the team arrived at the Benina International Airport in Benghazi, second largest city in Libya. Thousands of fans stormed the airport to catch a glimpse of their heroes and security personnel had a tough time trying to control their huge crowd. While thousands gathered outside the airport, some 500 people had managed to get onto the runway, dashing past fire engines, police cars and military vehicles to reach the plane. As the people were pushed back, they started chanting “Libya, Libya” amidst a joyous riot of whistling and shouting, reports Libya Herald. Goalkeeper Mohamed ‘Nashnush’ Abdaula, who made two saves during the penalties was the last player disembark the plane and the crowd went wilder upon seeing him.
The team was later to embark on a procession through some principal streets before leaving for the capital, Tripoli the following day.
They were welcomed at the Mitiga International Airport in Tripoli by Government officials including Minister of Youth, Abdul Salam Guaila. The team is expected to embark on tours to other cities and towns across the country to celebrate the feat. Housed in Group C, Libya got off their campaign with a 2-0 win over Ethiopia before coming from behind to hold Ghana (1-1) and Congo (2-2) to progress to the next round. At the quarters, they beat Gabon 5-3 on penalties before accounting for Zimbabwe via the same route, 5-4 at the last four. The Mediterranean Knights were the only North African team at the inaugural edition of the tournament designed exclusively for footballers playing in their domestic leagues in 2009 in Cote d’Ivoire.
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Confederation of African Football (CAF) News
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