Africa

Last updated: 6 january, 2010 - 15:00 GMT

Ethiopia 1968 - Pokou's year

A record eight teams qualified as Ethiopia becomes the first to host it twice.

Ghana is the team to beat after winning consecutively in 1963 and 1965. The Black Stars failed to make it three victories in a row after losing 1-0 in the final to Congo-Leopoldville (Congo Democratic Republic) through a goal by the giant striker Kalala Mukendi’s powerful right footed shot from outside the box into the top corner in the 66th minute.

What equally made the headlines was the performance of Ivory Coast forward Laurent Pokou, who left an indelible mark at the tournament after scoring six.

Pokou, just 20 years old, finished as top scorer. He scored twice in a pulsating semi-final against neighbours and rivals Ghana in Asmara. Ghana won 4-3 after extra-time, but the Ivorian performance was outstanding.

Pokou’s sixth goal was in front of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie himself as Ivory Coast beat the hosts 1-0 in the third-place play-off.

It was two years later in Sudan, however, that his nickname 'the man of Asmara' really resonated.

Pokou later played professional in France in the 1970s. Today he’s a member of the Ivorian Football Federation.

He had coaching stints at local club level and at the academy of his former club Asec where the likes of Kolo Toure were nurtured. In April 2008 he was badly beaten by Ivorian police at a check point despite identifying himself.

The incident caused a nation wide outcry. Accompanied by a strong delegation of government ministers, his namesake and soccer fan President Laurent Gbagbo, comforted him at his home.

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