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Equatorial Guinea President declares national holiday, gifts team Sh180m for historic AFCON win over Ivory Coast

Equatorial Guinea’s President, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbatsogo, has declared January 23, 2023, a public holiday in the country to celebrate the 4-0 victory of the national team against star-studded Africa Cup of Nations, AFCON 2023 host, Cote d’Ivoire.

The long-serving Head of State has also splashed millions of shillings as bonuses to the heroes and heroines.

The 82-year-old, who watched the game from his Palacio Presidencial de Malabo (the State House), offered the team €1 million (about Sh180 million) special bonus for the match.

Equatorial Guinea’s best AFCON performance was reaching the semi-finals as hosts in 2015 when Cote d’Ivoire won their second crown. Their 4-0 demolition of one of Africa’s soccer giants has been one of the most unexpected upsets created by the minnows and described by the country’s authorities as the final.

To celebrate the victory, the Vice President of the oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, further offered the team €200,000 (about Sh16 million) for the four goals scored against Cote d’Ivoire – one goal equaling €50,000. He announced on his official X (formerly Twitter) handle after the match that he had spoken to the players to encourage them.

“For me, the match against Ivory Coast is like a final. That is why I wished them luck and promised to incentivize them with €50,000 per goal scored in our favor,” Obiang Mangue, who is fondly called Teodorín said.

The humiliating defeat of the Elephants by the Minnows means the host who finished third with three points, will have to rely on results from other groups to hope for qualification as four best third-placed sides across the six groups will progress to the knockout stages.

The Nzalang Nacional, as the Equatorial Guinea national team, is famously referred to, stunned the soccer world with an exhilarating performance thrashing the Elephants in the last Group A game played at the Alassane Ouattara Olympic Stadium in Ebimpe, Abidjan, as lowly ranked teams continue to cause upsets at the continental tournament.

Captain Emilio Nsue netted a brace while goals from Pablo Ganet and Jannick Bulya increased the tally to four for the Equatoguineans, a seismic victory that saw the Nzalang Nacional finish top of the group, though on level seven points like second-placed Nigeria.

Cameroonians in the capital, Yaounde celebrated the victory of their neighbours over the hosts just as if it were the national team of the five-time African champions.

Cote d’Ivoire’s Ibrahim Sangare equalized twice when the Elephants were just one goal down, but VAR denied both goals, and the Elephants later missed a number of clear-cut goalscoring opportunities.

Besides declaring a public holiday to celebrate the victory,

Equatoguinean coach Juan Micha told a post-match press conference they capitalized on the pressure of their opponents in their game strategy, which produced the expected result.

He said they are focused and working the reach the level of the soccer powerhouses on the continent.

“What we want is to believe in ourselves and try to win every time,” the coach said, and of course, the unprecedented stun of the host will be a booster for the team to continue their giant-killing run when they face one of the third-placed sides in the last 16 on Sunday.