On June 4, 1989, the people of Mali were jubilant as the Eagles won their first sub-regional cup. It was the Cabral Cup. It was against the Sily National of Guinea-Conakry.
As children, we didn’t experience the 1972 Yaoundé African Cup of Nations. As time went by, it became clear that Mali had a homogeneous team with great players. Until proven otherwise, it remains a very good national team.
Since 1972, Mali has never played in a AFCON final. This page in the history of Malian soccer is revisited to exploit the breach opened up by the 1989 version of the Eagles’ triumph. This year, too, was up to the task, with only three professionals: Gaoussou Samaké, Abdoulaye Kaloga and Amadou Pathé dit Vieux Diallo.
The main prize at stake: the trophy!
After a goalless draw in Bamako, the Eagles of Mali eliminated Morocco on April 23, 1989 in Casablanca, and awaited the Elephants of Côte d’Ivoire for the final round of the 1990 AFCON qualifiers. In the meantime, the Amlca Cabral tournament was organized in Bamako.
Mali played in Group A alongside Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. In their first two matches, they recorded two draws, while Guinea-Bissau and Senegal picked up three points each. This put the Eagles in a turbulent zone for their third outing, against Guinea-Bissau, whose lethal weapon was Armando. Without victory, Mali would be eliminated and the party would have lost its taste and solemnity. Right up to the final minute, the 20,000 spectators kept pushing the Eagles. Then came a free-kick in Mali’s favor, with the score tied at one-all. Bakary Diakité dit Bakariny, a specialist in set-pieces, took the ball and broke through the Guinea-Bissau wall, which had meanwhile been barricaded. The Malian right-back was about to shoot, when Yacouba Traoré (aka Yaba) pushed him aside and took the free-kick. The ball grazed the foot of a player on the wall and beat the keeper: Mali’s second goal and there was an explosion of joy in the stands, with fans falling over in a faint.
The Bissau-Guineans, bewildered by this blow, fought hard to equalize but to no avail! The Eagles of Mali are through to the ½ final and face Sierra Leone. Stade Malien de Bamako stopper Aboubacar Vieux Djan Traoré took advantage of a corner to head home the only goal of the match. Mali are in the final and so far, the gamble has paid off, the only thing at stake is the trophy.
25,000 spectators witnessed the day of glory
In its day, bonuses were derisory, and for this final, the country’s authorities made no promises but the commitment was obvious and reflected the motivation of the players. The presence and assistance of the Minister of Sport at the time boosted the youngsters’ spirits.
The final was played on June 4, 1989.The Eagles won by 3 goals to 0. From the kick-off, they gave the Guineans no time to develop their game, or even try to impose their rhythm. In the 6th minute, Gaoussou Samaké scored an anthological goal.It was so beautiful that it’s worth recalling the action. He inherited a ball deflected by the Guinean defence, cushioned it with his chest and unleashed a shot that would have skinned an ox. The ball bounced under keeper Fodé Laye Camara’s bar and into the net.This early goal was bound to provoke a lively reaction from the opposition. The Malians were invigorated by their audacity in knocking out a Guinean side determined to confirm their flawless record. The equaliser came in the 23rd minute when the Senegalese assistant referee pointed to an offside position. The Guineans began to protest, forgetting that the game was still going on. The Malian players took advantage and scored the 2nd goal through Amadou Pathé Vieux Diallo, from a cross by Boubacar Sanogo. Both teams returned to the dressing room on that score.
The Guineans, caught off guard and drenched in water, were unable to recover from their nightmare. The Eagles of Mali, supported by over 25,000 spectators, shattered their opponents’ hopes with a 3rd goal in the 71st minute from Boubacar Sanogo.Stadiste’s leading striker at the time was set up by Amadou Pathé Vieux Diallo and he had no trouble finding a way past goalkeeper Fodé Laye Camara. That was the end of the myth, in the form of rumours, that Père Bouvier had cursed Malian soccer.And it’s obvious that Mali will never win a trophy, because Père Blanc was dispossessed of his land by the Malian state (the current Stade Mamadou Konaté, which bore his name).
A plot of land and 15,000 euros as rewards
Mali’s political authorities offered each player a plot of land to live on, and a modest sum (according to President Moussa Traoré) of 10,000,000 CFA francs (15,000 euros) to the team. It’s practically the biggest reward since the African Games in Brazza (1965) and the AFCON in Yaoundé (1972). But alas!Different times!Other realities!
Today, the living conditions and treatment of the various national teams have evolved. The valiant Eagles of Mali were not fortunate enough to qualify for the AFCON in Algiers (1990). They were eliminated by the Elephants of Côte d’Ivoire. On April 28, 1991, Cameroon blocked their path to the 1992 AFCON in Senegal.
History will forever remember that this team was tightly knit and managed by a modest but competent technical staff. After the events of 1991, national coach Kidian Diallo and his staff resigned. At the time, Malians were looking for change at all levels, as a logical consequence of the events of March 26, 1991.