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Cup shambles leaves Mali out in the cold

15 January 2010 21:05

LUANDA (AFP) - A farcical mix-up by Africa Cup of Nations' organisers in Angola left Mali fuming when they were locked out of a scheduled training session because the Algeria team had beaten them into the stadium.

Algeria turned up at the Escoqueirus Stadium in Luanda and gained immediate access on Friday afternoon, but waiting reporters were astonished when, a quarter of an hour later, the Mali team bus rounded a corner and parked outside the stadium.

Mali players, including Real Madrid midfielder and national team captain Mahamadou Diarra and 2007 African Footballer of the Year Frederic Kanoute, were made to wait in the coach for over half an hour, before being told they could enter the ground.

But the situation took a bizarre turn when the stadium's security officers refused to let them in as Algeria continued preparing for their final first-round match against Angola on Monday in blissful ignorance inside.

Utter confusion then reigned, as Diarra and some of his fellow team-mates attempted to gain access by clambering through an open window.

Over by the securely locked main gate Kanoute and Mali's Nigerian coach Stephen Keshi attempted to talk their way in, but to no avail.

After over an hour, and as dusk fell, a furious Keshi led his charges back to the team bus to return to their hotel having missed a vital chance to prepare for their last group match against Malawi in Cabinda on Monday.

Keshi, who won the Africa Cup of Nations as a player in the 1990s, told AFP: "I'm fed up. How could this happen, to get the boys in a bus and travel to a ground and be told you can't train? I don't know whose fault it is..."

Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita was also furious at the shambles, saying defiantly: "They can do what they like, but we're still going to qualify (for the quarter-finals)."

Diarra was so annoyed he refused to make any comment as he joined his team-mates for the hour-long journey back to the hotel to get ready for the flight to Cabinda on Saturday.

The local Africa Cup of Nations organising committee told AFP it was investigating the incident.

Mali, on one point in Group A after a draw with the hosts and a 1-0 loss to Algeria, face a game against Malawi that they must win if they are to have any hope of making it into the last eight.

They are making their sixth appearance in the competition with their highest placing coming in 1972 when they finished runners-up.

This is not the first time a competing team at the 2010 Nations Cup has fallen foul of an organising blunder.

Malawi coach Kinnah Phiri was left fuming when his side were unable to train for two days before Thursday's game against hosts Angola, which they lost 2-0.

"Three times we went onto a pitch but we found that there were others there. They were asked to leave but they refused. We have not trained for two days."

He said he had written a letter of protest to the competition's organisers.

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