Wild emotions turning lethal: Guinea coach pleads to prevent repeat
Fan celebrations are an integral component of any sporting event. However, situations often demand restraint for the greater good.
As Guinea are now hoping to make more history at the African Cup of Nations, coach Kaba Diawara urged fans to conduct in a responsible manner if the result goes in their favour in Friday's quarter-final -- reminding of the recent tragedies which unfolded in their capital Conakry.
Having won their maiden knockout match of the competition this century, after Mohamed Bayo's last-gasp goal secured a 1-0 win over Equatorial Guinea in a Round of 16 fixture on Sunday, Diawara stated what the triumph meant for his side. "We were crying our eyes out," he said.
With hosts Ivory Coast being a bordering country with Guinea, their last-16 win sparked frenzied celebrations in the stadium, but Diawara felt compelled to call for calm among supporters back home.
That was after six people were reportedly killed amid celebrations in the capital Conakry following the team's 1-0 defeat of Gambia during the group stage.
Guinea is also reeling from another tragedy in December, when 24 people died and hundreds were injured in a huge blast and fire at a fuel depot in Conakry.
"We are responsible," Diawara said of the most recent disaster.
"It was because of our victory. People are so happy when the team wins that the celebrations become a bit stupid.
"Of course, there should be celebrations. Of course, there was the disaster [in December], but that is exactly it, we want to avoid having to mourn more deaths," added the former Arsenal and PSG striker.
Standing in the path of Guinea -- who finished third in their group behind Senegal and Cameroon -- are Democratic Republic of Congo, ranked 67 and 13 places higher than them, but that should not intimidate the Syli Nationals (National Elephants) given how the ongoing tournament has kept churning out one upset after another. The "home" support is another factor.
"In Ivory Coast we are practically playing at home. There is a very big Guinean community. I even have a big brother who was born here, so in Ivory Coast we might as well be in Guinea," he said.
Diawara, who was born in France and represented the country at under-21 level before playing senior international football for Guinea, took charge of the national team before the last Cup of Nations in 2022, replacing Frenchman Didier Six.
He quickly made it his mission to tap into the large number of players with Guinean heritage born in Europe.
That means a squad which already contained midfielder Naby Keita, once of Liverpool, has since been strengthened by the likes of defender Mouctar Diakhaby and striker Serhou Guirassy, both former French youth internationals.
"When you go into a competition it is with the aim of going all the way, even if we have never been lucky enough to get to the semi-finals before," Diawara continued.
""For my staff and I this is really exceptional. It goes beyond football. This time we can see that the path is opening up for us."