Mali Government Bashes Soccer Team

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BAMAKO, Mali (AP) -- Prime Minister Ousmane Issoufe Maiga said Mali's soccer team will pay for losing a World Cup qualifying game which sparked rioting, looting and the destruction of monuments in the capital Bamako.

"All the consequences of the players' acts will backfire," Maiga said without elaborating on Monday, a day after the match and hours of street violence.

The Mali team looked down silently in humiliation when they faced angry government ministers, who berated them during a state television broadcast on Monday night.

Government spokesman Ousmane Thiam told them they were "a disappointment" and "did not perform to expectations" after the government had spent African francs 380 million (US$775,500, euro601,100) on their transport and lodging.

Earlier, Maiga went on national radio and said his government would work to repair the damage caused by its nation's "unsporting behavior."

He also congratulated Togo for its victory, awarded by the African Soccer Confederation on Monday after the match was suspended in second-half injury time while Togo led 2-1. However, FIFA, which could not be reached for comment, will have the final say. If the result stands, Mali is virtually eliminated from qualifying for the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany.

After Togo scored what appeared to be the game-winning goal in injury time, dozens of Mali fans in the sold-out 70,000-seat stadium invaded the field, and police fired tear gas. Officials suspended the game, and state television immediately cut its live transmission.

Dozens of people sustained minor injuries, including some police officers, Interior Minister Colonel Sadio Gassama said. He added that some were treated at the stadium and most at the hospital, but all were released by Monday afternoon.

Rioting spread from the stadium to central Bamako, with thousands descending on the capital's main African Unity Avenue and threatening Mali's top soccer players.

Protesters blocked the avenue with flaming tires, cutting off western Bamako, the so-called Left Bank, from the eastern half of the city. Dozens of cars were burned and used to block other roads.

Police repeatedly fired tear gas as the crowd tried to ransack the Mali Football Federation offices.

Groups of rioters also confronted citizens, stealing cellular telephones and money. One journalist had his camera stolen.

The multistory building housing the local Olympic committee was burned down, committee director Habib Sissoko said.

"I have many fears for Togo-Mali relations," Sissoko said.

Togo provides landlocked Mali with its sole access to the sea through its main port and capital, Lome. The two countries are divided by Burkina Faso.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

That is some funny stuff, but on the other hand, it's sad.

That Prime Minister needs to do what Americans do when their favorite team loses: punch the wall, pound some beers, turn on the PS2, and have a go to redeem the team. What a moron.

Soccer (excuse me, football) could be the death of the world if we're not careful.

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