Sports can salve wounds, at least the psychic ones suffered by nations. That’s what’s at stake for Libya’s soccer team when it plays Saturday in the opening game of the Africa Cup of Nations.
Under Gadaffi, Libyan soccer was relegated to the sidelines. Libya last hosted the Nations Cup in 1982.
During the civil war this summer, the players risked their lives traveling to compete for a spot at the Nations Cup. A number of the players, like Walid al-Katroushi, even joined the rebel forces. In an interview with the Associated Press, al-Katroushi said: “This is more important than a football cup. We want to do something good for Libya.”
The Libyan team became a symbol of the revolution when they appeared at one game in Cairo wearing new uniforms, red, black and green, the colors of the new flag.
Libya plays its first match against the tournament hosts, Equatorial Guinea. Libya’s coach, Marcos Paqueta, calls the game a turning point for the nation. His players look at it as an opportunity to bring joy to their country. While some were shocked that a $1 million prize was offered to the Equatorial Guinea team if they beat Libya, Paqueta called it a compliment.