Durban, South Africa - Mali's qualification for the quarter-finals of the ongoing 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa may have seemed perfunctory to football fans elsewhere, but the team's players and officials are viewing it as a source of much-needed succour for their beleaguered people back home.
Mali is in the throes of conflict as armed Islamist groups have seized the northern part of the country and inflicted untold hardship on the people, forcing many to flee to neighbouring countries and many more to be displaced internally.
As the Nations Cup tournament continues in South Africa, international forces are assisting the West African nation to regain sovereignty over its whole territory and help restore normalcy to what was once a shinning example of democracy in Africa.
After Mali's 1-1 draw against DR Congo propelled the team to the last eight on Monday, team captain Seydou Keita struck the right note when he said: “This means a lot for Mali. This qualification will give hope to Mali people, you all know what is happening in our country. I’m very happy.'
Team coach Claude Le Roy echoed the same sentiments: 'I want to congratulate Mali. I know that this win means a lot for the people of Mali. I know that Mali is going through a difficult moment right now, but they are not alone, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, we have many internal problems and people have died.”
The players and officials will be hoping to go further in the tournament to bring more joy to their compatriots back home at a difficult moment in time.