- Max Gradel was the hero for Ivory Coast in the opener against Equatorial Guinea
- The Sivasspor striker dedicated the goal to his father who recently passed away
- Gradel was unfortunate not to have attended his father’s funeral as he was at a training camp in Saudi Arabia
Ivory coast star Max Gradel was a ball of emotions on Wednesday, January 12 after scoring the vital goal that handed his side all three points in their Africa Cup of Nations opener.
The striker, who plays for Sivasspor in the Turkish League, scored as early as the fifth minute with a strike that proved to be the decider against Equatorial Guinea in the Group E clash.
It was a special goal for the striker, as it was his first since the passing of his father.
Gradel could not make his father’s funeral which took place on January 8 because of COVID-related complications, and he revealed to BBC Sport Africa that the goal was dedicated to his late dad.
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It's a mix of emotion and joy at the same time," the Ivorian captain told BBC Sport Africa of his goal.
"I am very happy to have scored for my father, the whole Ivory Coast and all Ivorians."
At the time of his father’s funeral, Gradel was at a training camp in Saudi Arabia prior to flying to Cameroon for the Africa Cup of Nations.
He thus urged Ivorians to ‘represent him’ in the funeral since he would not be able to attend.
"I want to say thank you to them for the support they gave me as well as my team-mates who supported me during these difficult moments,” the striker went on.
Ivory Coast coach Patrice Beaumelle also reiterated that Gradel’s goal had “gone directly to his father”.
Gradel will be in action for Ivory coast once again on Sunday, January 16 when they face Sierra Leone, who somehow managed to hold off defending champions Algeria in their opening game.
Ivory Coast are among the big guns who are expected to go far, or even win the tournament which they last won in 2015.
Tunisia coach reacts to controversial refereeing in Mali loss
Elsewhere, Tunisian football team coach Mondher Kebaier reacted to his side’s controversial loss to Mali in their AFCON 2021 opener on Wednesday.
The game was laced with controversy towards the end as referee Janny Sikazwe ended the game prematurely twice.
He initially blew for full time on 85 minutes before allowing play to continue, before blowing once again in the 89th minute.
The tactician branded the decision as ‘inexplicable’ as he further claimed that he has never seen such despite being in the game of football for a long time.