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Ivory Coast Football Defeat Dashes Hope of Sporting Reconciliation

Host nation Egypt has defeated Ivory Coast in the final of the 2006 African Cup of Nations. In the divided West African country, the loss has also dashed hopes of reconciliation through football success.

After star forward Didier Drogba missed an easy chance during the game and a penalty during a deciding shoot-out, most of the streets of the commercial capital Abidjan fell silent.

In one part of town, a group of women broke into tears.

It was unlike after recent games, as the Elephants of Ivory Coast, as they are known marched to the final, spurring wild celebrations.

After the semi-final victory, one fan said he prayed players would bring the cup first to rebel-held zones and then to the government-held south.

Before the final, one of the players, Bonaventure Kalou, said their performance was a last hope for reconciliation and solidarity for divided Ivorians. He said they were like a life vest for the difficult peace process. But he said he hoped it would not be too much weight on the player's shoulders.

During the tournament, a pro-presidential leader, recently sanctioned by the Security Council, said he would put off protests as long as the national side was winning. Charles Ble Goude is under a travel ban and asset freeze for disrupting the peace process.

He is now thinking of when to protest against the international community for failing to disarm northern rebels more than three years after a French-brokered peace accord was signed.

Parliament, which has blocked political reforms in successive peace deals, resumed work this week, even though almost half the lawmakers boycotted the session

This latest development was not the main focus this week, but as one fan told VOA, now that the football honeymoon is over, politically-motivated ethnic tensions will build once again.