The defender apologized to his opponent as fans voiced amazement that he had escaped a red card
Burkina Faso star Steeve Yago has said sorry to an opposition player who needed treatment just 38 seconds into the Africa Cup of Nations after the defender lunged in with a challenge that started the tournament in brutal fashion.
Over-enthusiastic Yago was taking on hosts and five-time winners of the competition Cameroon in a Group A encounter at the tournament on Sunday when the 29-year-old went for broke and lunged in on Collins Fai during the opening minute.
Sliding along the turf of the new Olembe Stadium in the Cameroonian capital of Yaounde, Yago made contact above his rival's knee with studs up in a gruesome attempt to win the ball, somehow escaping with a warning.
Yago's side went on to take the lead 23 minutes later through a brilliant volley by Quevilly-Rouen's Gustavo Sangare.
Amid more hot-headed tackles and defending, Cameroon were allowed to come back into the match and eventually win it with two Vincent Aboubakar penalties.
Approaching half-time, Aston Villa's Bertrand Traore brought Napoli midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa to the ground before RS Berkane's Issoufou Dayo fouled Seattle Sounders left-back Nouhou Tolo inside the penalty area, allowing Aboubakar to step up once more and make it 2-1 in first-half added time.
After his nation's opening defeat, Yago took to social media to reflect and address the victim of his reckless challenge.
"Not the expected result for this first match of [AFCON]," he wrote on Twitter. "I want to apologize to Collins Fai for my dangerous tackle at the start of the match. Focus on the next match."
Standard Liege right-back and good sport Fai accepted the olive branch. "It happens," he told Yago by reply. "Good luck for the rest of the tournament."
Punters online reacted to the "worst tackle ever" and one of the "wildest challenges ever." "You know AFCON has begun when crazy tackles come flying in," said one.
Burkina Faso have two more opportunities to pick up points in their attempt to reach the knockout stage.
They will fancy their chances against fellow minnows Cape Verde on Thursday, then face Ethiopia four days later.
At a tournament ravaged by Covid, though, Burkina Faso were missing five senior players against Cameroon.
That caused The Stallions to object to the Confederation of African Football (CAF), which has deemed that games at the finals must go ahead if squads can field at least 11 men - even if none of them are goalkeepers.
Teams who fail to do so will forfeit matches 2-0, intensifying Traore's frustrations over what the Burkina Faso squad appear to feel was an unfair application of tournament Covid testing protocols.
The forward claimed players had been subjected to antigen rather than PCR testing, with bosses reportedly making an official complaint after players were allegedly visited by testers late at night.
"I believe this is a scandal," said Traore. "We cannot be told on the eve of the match that we have Covid cases among the players when some of them are our best players.
"This is unacceptable. Why did they not conduct PCR tests instead? They should have told us this beforehand.
"The officials and the authorities really need to rethink this organization so that we can be sure that players won't be told 24 hours beforehand that they can't play.
"We are obliged to continue playing the competition despite the pandemic and, right now, there is a protocol that has been set up by almost all organizations, be it CAF or the Premier League.
"I'm not really in agreement with the protocol but we want to know why there were two health teams that came to our hotel to carry out tests. Why were the tests changed? Why was it not a PCR test anymore?
"We trained for 10 days for this first game, we had difficulties before, but it can't be that 24 hours beforehand, on the eve of the match, you tell some of our players that they cannot play."