An electrifying moment unfolded at the Charles Konan Banny Stadium in Yamoussoukro as Angola secured victory over Burkina Faso, propelling them to the top of Group D and resulting in the elimination of the 2019 champions.
The atmosphere in the stadium was transformed as the dust settled, casting a gritty shroud over what was once a vibrant spectacle of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON).
As a journalist covering this significant football event in Ivory Coast, I, along with some colleagues, traveled from Yamoussoukro to Abidjan for the games, which included the defending champions defeating Guinea and the Group D match between Angola and Burkina Faso.
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After the games, our press bus, carrying nearly 50 journalists from different countries, departed from the carport city of Ivory Coast around midnight with a security convoy back to Abidjan. During the journey, I decided to take a short nap.
Suddenly, I was jolted awake by a loud noise. To my astonishment, the bus was veering dangerously towards a wall. Acting on instinct, I propelled myself through the window, thinking it might be an explosion.
In those harrowing moments, I realized I had narrowly escaped becoming another tragic statistic in the history of sports journalism. The press bus descended into chaos as fellow journalists also scrambled to safety through the windows.
Despite the panic that threatened to engulf me, a spark of defiance ignited within. I refused to succumb to the prospect of being trapped in that mangled metal coffin. I had stories to tell, goals to achieve, and a life to live.
Following the auto crash, the police escorting the bus quickly made emergency calls, and security and ambulances arrived promptly. The injured were transported to hospitals, and I found myself at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire in Abidjan for a checkup.
After receiving injections to alleviate pain and quell fear, we were offered hot tea and bread. Once the results were released, we were taken back to the main media center at Trenchville in Abidjan.
My experience at AFCON 2023 transcended the realm of a football tournament. It became a crucible, a baptism by fire that reshaped me. The events etched into my being served as a poignant reminder that life, though fragile, is a precious gift, and every moment offers a chance to dance with the beautiful game, both on and off the pitch.