Malabo - Guinea described their progress, by the drawing of lots, to Sunday's African
Nations Cup quarter-final against Ghana in Malabo as the "gods of football
fortune" smiling down on them.
The country, devastated by the Ebola virus in the last year, was thrilled to
see its national team qualify on Thursday at the expense of Mali after the two
sides finished Group D level.
Chants of 'Ebola, Ebola' from rival fans had a sizeable impact on the
players but they still ended up in the finals after winding up second in their
preliminary group section behind Ghana and ahead of Togo and Uganda.
There was an explosion of joy in the Guinean capital of Conakry after the
announcement of Thursday's draw result with drivers and motorbike riders
honking their horns in celebration.
"It has been a long road," financial director of Guinea's Sports
Ministry Amara Dabo told Reuters. "The gods of football fortune smiled on
Guinea were banned from hosting preliminary qualifying games because of
fears over the spread of the disease. They had to move home matches to
Casablanca in Morocco and as they travelled they were treated almost as
"We have had to go round in a very strange context with health checks
and fleeting glances," said coach Michel Dussuyer.
"There have been some measures we've felt have been discriminatory and
when you have your temperature taken twice a day it can get annoying. But
everything really is in the attitude of people you meet and the strange
responses we get."
In Conakry's Boulbinet neighbourhood, youths sporting red, yellow and green
national colours danced in the street.
"We are qualified. God is with us. Long live the Syli," screamed
one of them in reference to the team's Syli Nationale nickname.
The worst Ebola outbreak on record has killed at least 8 700 people in
Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.