The Africa Cup of Nations

9 Jan

Well, it’s that biennial time that has many football managers around Europe trembling; it’s time for The Orange Africa Cup of Nations. There is no doubt that with just over a day to go before kick off, we’re starting to get truly excited by the prospects of yet another fantastic tournament. In a year that will surely see African football etched into folklore, what better time to be involved with the beautiful game? In what, I’m sure; many will look at as a warm up to the first World Cup to be held on African soil, the Orange Africa Cup of Nations proudly takes centre stage for the next 3weeks.

The 16 finalist nations have all set sail for their respective pre-tournament camps and warm-up friendly games, before descending upon Angola for the opening ceremony. And what better flagship for the continent than a country that has risen, Phoenix-like, from the ashes of decades of civil war? It is really great to think that even in the face of the current economic climate; Africa is doing nothing less than moving forward in leaps and bounds.

Angola boasts one of the world’s most expensive cities in its capital Luanda that will play host to both the nation’s opening game and the coveted final. The four other host cities, Cabinda, Benguela and Lobango, may be playing second fiddle to Luanda, but they each have a huge part to play before the victors are crowned Kings of Africa.

In recent years we have seen the likes of Samuel Eto’o and Didier Drogba dubbed as the best strikers in the game. Geremi, Michael Essien and Yaya Toure mix it up with the best in the midfield business, while rocks like Joseph Yobo, Alex Song and Kolo Toure bolster defensive efforts at the highest level. For this reason, every two years The African Cup of Nations is, initially, overshadowed by bad feeling and negativity as an ever-imminent club versus country battle ensues; a sure sign that African football and African players have become increasingly pivotal in world football. This time round, not much has changed. Already, players have been banned from playing for their clubs and club managers have begun moaning.

Calls for rescheduling the tournament have been sent out, but we all know that’s not going to happen anytime soon. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) is unshakable on their place on the football calendar. I can just picture them sitting there saying,

“World Cup year or not, this is our turn, and it has been since our inception in 1957… when we did reschedule.”

The reasons for the time of year are apparently due to adverse weather conditions in June and July… I know what you’re thinking;

“But that’s when The World Cup is being held!”

So maybe there is something in this argument for rescheduling to the summer break… except it would mean rescheduling the year as the tournament would clash with The World Cup and The Olympics. Either way, this is why we love football. There is always going to be something to argue about. Football has the capacity to bring us together by dividing us.

At the end of the day, The Africa Cup of Nations opens up all sorts of doors and that’s why we watch it. Everyone knows the globe-scouring scouts will be out there looking for the next George Wheah, Rigobert Song, Roger Milla, Tony Yeboah or Kalusha Bwalya, and this is their time to shine. The same moaning managers know the talent pool open to them and cannot wait to get their hands on Africa’s latest exports. So eventually the natural balance is restored and everyone comes back to enjoying the thrills and spills of the tournament. So join me as I celebrate African football all this month right here.

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