The Second Annual “Chris Cup”, in honor of Chris Nedelcovych, was played in Sansanding, Mali August 19-September 22, 2008. Eight teams entered the round-robin contest in a rural region of this West African country where electricity is still not available and livelihoods consist of primarily subsistence farming and herding. The main joy for young men is found in playing soccer on a dirt field, many of them lucky to have sandals to play in so as not to play barefoot. The “Chris Cup” is a major annual event coinciding with the festivities of Independence Day.
The month long tournament was organized by the mayor of Sansanding, supported by the whole community and presided by this beautiful Host Committee. The Host Committee assured that all parties, players and spectators alike, were well taken care of and good fun was had by all.
Mario de Matos, Marshall of the Tournament and representing the Chris Nedelcovych Soccer Foundation, is pictured here with the two finalists just before kickoff. “The Chris Cup is indeed a wonderful and joyous occasion for the region of Markala to shine and bring out the best in all its youth” announced Mario as he made the ceremonial kickoff to the Championship game.
The game kicked off at 3 pm on September 22 with the temperatures soaring in the mid 90s. After a hard fought battle, AS Cabral emerged the winner in the Championship Match against the Veterans 3-0 before a very attentive and enthusiastic crowd. Mid afternoon games are necessary in Sansanding as the sun sets at 6:30 pm and the availability of electricity for lights is many many years away.
The packed crowd is enthusiastically following the play by play moves from the sidelines. Pictured in the VIP section are the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Sansanding along with other civic leaders of the community and the Tournament Marshall representing CNSF.
Pictured at left is the Captain and the Coach of the Champions, AS Cabral, receiving the Chris Cup from Mario de Matos. Both the Coach and the Captain were extremely elated to have survived the month long tournament and having emerged as the Champions for the first time. The Captain announced that "It was tough but we are the Champions and look forward to defending the title next year"!
The Mayor of Sansanding awards the Captain of the runners up, the Veterans, the consolation prize. The Captain remarked "We played our hearts out but Cabral was simply unstoppable this game! We will look for them next year".