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20 April 2024

Libya open Nations Cup against Equatorial Guinea

By Reuters

Libya's footballers dream of a winning start to the African Nations Cup on Saturday when they open the tournament against joint hosts Equatorial Guinea (1830 GMT) but their opponents have been offered an extraordinary incentive of their own. 

Libya's improbable qualification for the 16-team tournament, which came against the odds and in the midst of the turmoil of the overthrow last year of Muammar Gaddafi's regime, has made the players a potent symbol in the rebuilding of their country and given their task at the tournament a greater weight. 

However, they are up against a home side offered some $1 million by a government minister this week to win the tournament's first match. 

Equatorial Guinea's agriculture minister Teodoro Nguema, the son of the small, oil-rich country's president, told players he would give them 500 million CFA to share if they won and a further 10 million CFA (about $20,000) for each goal scored, the country's official government website www.guineaecuatorialpress.com reported this week. 

The symbolism of the Libyan cause and the home country's lavish gesture overshadow the second Group A game that will follow at the newly-built Nkoantoma stadium in Bata (2100). 

The meeting between Senegal and Zambia, both impressive in qualifying, could well decide the top place in the group.