Supporters took to dusty streets across the country to show their joy when the team qualified for the quarter finals, after a match whose result at the expense of Mali only came the day after the final whistle, when lots were drawn in a hotel room.
Guinea is one of the three countries most affected by the fever epidemic brought on by the Ebola virus. Although Morocco refused to host the African Cup of Nations due to the risks posed by the arrival of supporters from the infected region, it allowed the Sily National (National Elephant), the nickname given to the Guinean national team, to make their home on Moroccan soil for the preparation stages.
Drawn in a group where their chances of qualifying for the quarter finals were seen as minimal right from the start, they managed to knock out Mali against all expectations, after an epic match which ended in a draw. The two teams had to be separated by the drawing of lots in a hotel room the day after the match. For a nation with few opportunities to come together because of political difficulties and the hardship of the Ebola virus, everybody began to support the national team. Social network messaging went viral. It's a fever which has taken over a whole nation, and goes beyond the world of sport.
In a post titled “How can we explain the infatuation with Guinea's Sily National?“, a blogger called “cireass” analyses the reasons for this fever, on his blog Southern Rivers: A Look at Guinea, part of the mondoblog.org network:
Après une campagne de qualification délocalisée à l’extérieur du pays (au Maroc) pour cause d’Ebola qui frappe la Guinée depuis fin 2013, le Sily National de Guinée s’est qualifié non pas sans humiliation lors de ses déplacements dans des pays qui voyaient toute une nation porteuse du virus Ebola. De quoi ‘séduire’ plus d’un de ses supporteurs…
La dernière raison qui pourrait expliquer cet appui, ce sont les réseaux; précisément la tendance selfie. Oubliez la période où Internet représentait un luxe pour les Guinéens. De nos jours, en dépit du problème récurrent d’électricité, la plupart des personnes de la tranche d'âge 15-30 ans disposent d’un compte sur Facebook. Et la tendance du moment, c’est de poster un selfie avec un dérivé du Sily (maillot, bracelet, bonnet, etc.) sur Facebook, Instagram ou Twitter. Ces milliers de photos donnent l’image d’une équipe soutenue par tout un peuple.
After a qualification campaign relocated abroad (in Morroco) due to Ebola, which struck Guinea at the end of 2013, the qualification of Guinea's Sily National was not without humilation, as it was forced to decamp to countries as many of its neighbors regarded the whole Guinean nation as a vast carrier of the Ebola virus. This aggravation was certainly “attractive” to more than a few of its supporters.
Social networks are the final possible reason for this support, specifically the selfie trend. Forget the time when Guineans saw the internet as a luxury. These days, despite persistent electricity problems, the majority of people in the 15-30 age bracket have a Facebook account. And the current trend is posting a selfie with Sily National merchandise (shirt, wristband, cap etc.) on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Thousands of these photos create an image of a team supported by the whole population.