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Ivory Coast Elephants Romp in Rebel Capital Homecoming


The Ivory Coast football team known as the Elephants has easily won its homecoming match in the northern rebel capital Bouake, against visiting Madagascar. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from our regional bureau in Dakar.

The chants of over 20,000 fans were frenetic as the Elephants, led by their captain, Didier Drogba, took to the field Sunday in Bouake.

The chants went up a notch, when his Chelsea club teammate Salomon Kalou scored the game's first goal, opening the way to a 5-0 romp.

The victory kept the Elephants at the top of Group One in qualifying for next year's African Cup of Nations in Ghana.

This fan said northern Ivorians owed a lot to Drogba, who scored the fifth goal and initiated efforts to play the match in Bouake, split off from southern Ivory Coast since late 2002.

The fan said President Laurent Gbagbo was absent, but that not everything could be perfect, and that former rebel chief and now reconciliation Prime Minister Guillaume Soro was present.

The football field in Bouake was in dismal shape, says the president of Ivorian sports journalists, Kanga Robia. He says it is a symbol of the work that remains to be done following the latest peace deal.

This includes disarmament, reintegration of some rebels into the army, identification of undocumented northerners, and free and fair elections.

Many fans who left the game draped in national orange, green and white colors, said the success of the Elephants, which has always included northerners and southerners, was an example of why all Ivorians need to work hard to reunite.

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