Keita hopes Cup run will bring joy to Mali

Seydou Keita
Seydou Keita

Captain Seydou Keita hopes Mali's run at the Africa Cup of Nations will provide a joyful distraction from the conflict back home.

Mali drew 1-1 with DR Congo on Monday to book their place in the last eight.

But with French troops and government forces advancing against Islamists in the north, Keita said was reassessing Mali's priorities at the tournament.

"I'm not interested in medals for myself; I want one thing now and that is to give pleasure to my country," said Keita.

"I take pleasure in running on the field with my young team-mates and in the Mali colours," the 33-year-old former Barcelona midfielder added.

"The country is facing difficult times but I think our qualifying for the quarter-finals will bring a lot of joy to the people."

Keita, who now plays for Dalian Aerbin in China, has made a reference to the conflict after each of Mali's three games at the tournament to date, even wearing a T-shirt with the slogan 'Peace in our Country' after their opening match in Port Elizabeth last week.

"Our country is going through one of the most difficult times in its history," he added.

"But the government is trying to regain all its territory and people are starting to look up.

"I get goose bumps when speaking of Mali. There is nothing to compare with the giving of joy to a country that suffers."

Mali are through to the knock-out stage for the second successive tournament after they finished third at the 2012 finals in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

However, a military coup last March caused major disruptions to the team, including the departure of coach Alain Giresse and a Fifa decision forcing them to play a home World Cup qualifier at a neutral venue because of unrest in the capital Bamako.