ETHIOPIA soccer coach Sewnet Bishaw has refused to condemn the hooligan behaviour of his team's fans after their stunning 1-1 draw against Africa Cup of Nations defending champions Zambia on Monday.
In the closing minutes of the first half, Ethiopia fans hurled objects at the Zambian players at Mbombela Stadium.
After the game, Bishaw was unapologetic: "The fans were merely supporting their boys. It was nothing out of the ordinary – that is part of football. Fans do tend to do some unnecessary things, but that reaction is normal."
Bishaw believes his troops will get better as the tournament progresses, and will welcome any help – including that of the 12th man, the fans – to get the desired results.
"We have two more matches in the group, against very different teams. We will become stronger and stronger with each game."
Expectations were high that Chipolopolo would ease their way to a win over the Walya Antelopes but the Ethiopians, who played with 10 men for the last 60 minutes, put up one of their most valiant fights yet to come from behind and share the spoils.
Chipolopolo came under a barrage of criticism at home following their failure to win in a string of warm-up matches in their build-up to the tournament.
Again the side failed to win in their campaign opener. "We don't feel any pressure," Zambia captain Christopher Katongo said. "Every game in the tournament is going to be difficult. It is now up to my players to push up a gear from here on."
Zambia now face one of the tournament favourites, Nigeria, in their next fixture. Ethiopia play Burkina Faso. Both matches are on Friday at Mbombela Stadium.