Max Gradel Ivory Coast 2022Getty

Afcon 2021: Cote d’Ivoire star Gradel dedicates goal to father in defeat of Equatorial Guinea

Max Gradel revealed a tribute to his late father after scoring for Cote d’Ivoire against Equatorial Guinea on Wednesday evening.

The Sivasspor’s wonder strike propelled his team to a 1-0 win in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations encounter played at Japoma Stadium in Douala.

Profiting from a poor clearance by one of the National Thunder defenders, the 34-year-old unleashed a right footed shot from outside the box which went straight into the top right corner of goalkeeper Manuel Sapunga.

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Gradel was in tears while celebrating as he pointed his fingers to the sky.

"It's a mix of emotion and joy at the same time," the Elephants captain told BBC Sport Africa.

"I am very happy to have scored for my father, the whole Ivory Coast and all Ivorians.

"I want to say thank you to them for the support they gave me as well as my teammates who supported me during these difficult moments."

The former Leeds United and Leicester City forward was unable to travel to his father's internment on 8 January due to Covid-travel difficulties and his participation in the Elephants’ training camp in Saudi Arabia.

Gradel revealed to the Mail Online how his dad used to beat him up for playing football instead of going to school.

"When I was young, my dad never wanted me to play. He would tell me 'go to school, go to school'. I used to get some injuries by playing football on the street and he wasn’t happy,” he said.

"Sometimes he beat me up but I couldn’t help it. I had to go play again - even though I knew I was going to get beat when I got home, I’d still go again and again.

"I understand what he was thinking, but for me, I would die for football.

"So even though he beat me up I still played. For me, there was nothing else I could have done."

Cote d’Ivoire lead Group E with three points, while reigning African champions Algeria and Sierra Leone occupy the second and third spot respectively.

Victory for Patrice Beaumelle’s men against Sierra Leone on Sunday would propel them to the Round of 16 with a match to spare.