x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

African Cup of Nations: Bonus carrot for the Blue Sharks

Cape Verde's players have been promised a bonus of €45,000 should they win the tournament.

Cape Verde players have been a promised a bonus of 45,000 euros. Schalk van Zuydam / AP Photo
Cape Verde players have been a promised a bonus of 45,000 euros. Schalk van Zuydam / AP Photo

PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA // Cape Verde's players have been promised a bonus of €45,000 (Dh225,000) should they win the African Cup of Nations.

That might barely equate to two days' salary for some of the wealthiest footballers in the world, but for the representatives of the smallest country to participate in the Nations Cup, and the unfancied side in today's quarter-final against Ghana, it is a significant carrot.

The impact of the Blue Sharks' surprising progress on some of players who progressed to the knockout phase by beating Angola and holding South Africa and Morocco to draws may be far greater.

Luis Carlos Almada Soares, the striker who grew up in France and is known as "Platini" (after the former France captain Michel Platini), hopes his performances will have alerted clubs of greater pedigree than Santa Clara, of the Azores islands and the Portuguese second division, to his potential.

His contract there expires at the end of the season. Platini was a late addition to coach Lucio Antunes's squad and, against Morocco, scored his country's first goal at a Nations Cup finals.

It is Antunes himself who perhaps has gained most from Cape Verde's survival. He has been applauded for his organisation of a team from a group of islands of barely 500,000 people, and he also has a friendship with Jose Mourinho, the Real Madrid coach.

Nicknamed "The Creole Special One" in Cape Verde, Antunes joked to The National: "The difference between us is that Jose earns a fortune for his work."

Antunes, who took time off his job as an air-traffic controller to guide Cape Verde to South Africa, will, like many of his players, hope this campaign launches his career to a new level.

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