Tunisia revolt inspired football team: Esperance

08 December 2011 08:16

African champions Esperance say the uprising in their home country Tunisia which ousted the nation's longtime dictator and sparked the Arab Spring inspired the team to continental glory.

Esperance face Asia's finest, Al Sadd of Qatar, on Sunday at the Club World Cup in Japan, with a semi-final spot and a glamour tie against the mighty Barcelona of Spain up for grabs.

It is all a far cry from the tumult which ousted Zine el Abidine Ben Ali from power in January and saw football in Tunisia thrown into disarray. Politics in the country remains in a state of flux.

"The events at home really stimulated our team and we believe that the players felt greatly liberated after what happened," said Esperance coach Nabil Maaloul, who told his men to put any thoughts of Barcelona out of their minds.

Esperance, who hail from the Tunisian capital Tunis, won their third title of an enormously successful season when they narrowly saw off Wydad Casablanca from Morocco to win the African Champions League last month.

Defender Khalil Chammam said: "One positive thing from the revolution was that, although we suffered a lot, those changes and the suffering made us stronger -- mentally and physically."

Should Esperance, the most decorated team in Tunisian football, beat Al Sadd and face European champions Barcelona, it would be a fitting end to a turbulent year, said midfielder Khaled Mouelhi.

"The revolution gave us the chance to prepare very well. The league stopped for two or three months, which gave us more time together as a team. We used that time well," he said.

Banana Yaya, the full-back from Cameroon, said the popular overthrow of Ben Ali had been "great motivation".

"We felt a great sense of liberation," he said. "It was not easy to cope during the revolution but afterwards we tried our very best to win the African Champions League."

Source: AFP