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Burkina Faso footballers target AFCON ‘joy’ for troubled nation

Garoua (Cameroon) (AFP) – Burkina Faso’s football team are hoping to continue their run at the Africa Cup of Nations all the way to the final to “give joy” to the people of their troubled west African country where the president was this week ousted in a military coup.

The Stallions, who have never won the continental title but did reach the final in 2013, play Tunisia in the quarter-finals on Saturday in the northern Cameroonian city of Garoua.

Their build-up to the tie included receiving a phonecall on Friday morning from the country’s new military leader.

“This morning we had the honour of speaking to our new president who gave us some advice and encouragement and reassured us that they were behind us all the way,” said coach Kamou Malo.

“We are under no obligations but it is our duty to try to go all the way to the final and that begins with the game tomorrow (Saturday).”

President Roch Marc Christian Kabore was seized by rebel soldiers on Monday amid rising anger at his failure to stem jihadist violence ravaging the impoverished nation.

The new leader is Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, 41, a rising star in the military who commands an eastern region badly hit by jihadists.

“It shows we are not alone here,” said midfielder Adama Guira.

“Despite the situation in the country, the people are following us and have faith in us. It lifts our spirits.”

To reach the semi-finals, Burkina Faso need to upset a Tunisian side ranked fourth in Africa and who defeated Nigeria in the last round.

If they do progress they will face either Senegal or Equatorial Guinea in the last four, but they are already eyeing going all the way to the February 6 final.

“Maybe that would help calm the situation and it would give a lot of joy to our families and everyone who is behind us,” Guira said.

“We are all aware of that and we will do everything we can to give them that joy.”

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