The nations meet for the first time since the 2015 IBSA Blind Football African Championships in Cameroon.
Blind football as a Paralympic sport is growing rapidly across Africa, with many nations eyeing the single Tokyo 2020 qualification spot through this year’s fourth African Championships in Abidjan, Ivory Coast from 15th to 26th November.
As part of both nations’ preparations for the African Championships, Ivory Coast invited Mali to Abidjan for a double-friendly match at the Robert Champroux Stadium and Treichville Sports Park on 16th and 17th March.
The hosts had many shots at goal in the first game but were unable to find the back of the net in front of their home crowd. Mali capitalised by scoring two goals to win the game. The second game was similar to the first, where Ivory Coast were dominant but found it difficult to score. Mali’s captain Thiam Mahamadou converted past the Ivorian goalkeeper for the Eagles to win the second friendly 1-0.
FISMA President Koffi Chaka felt the friendlies were a good opportunity for his goal of rubbing shoulders with high-level players prior to the African Championships in November:
"This double friendly allowed our coaching staff to understand the level that our players are at. We realise that there is still work to be done. Until November we are ready to engage in more friendly matches of this nature to strengthen our national team, " he said.
Caption: Ivory Coast set to take a corner-kick
Mali’s captain Thiam Mahamadou expressed his satisfaction to play Ivory Coast in a friendly match: "We believe the African Championship competition next November is promising. We played against a very strong Ivorian team,” he admitted.
The matches were a historic event as they were the first blind football friendly games between two African countries outside of official international competition.
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Caption: Mali and Ivory Coast line up with the referees before kick-off © FISMA.