African Nations Cup: A Disaster in the Making?

January 14, 2010 at 4:54 am | Posted in General Football | 2 Comments

I find this years African Nations Cup to be completely insane.  While I love African football and African players, the leaders of African football have demonstrated themselves to be  just as incompetent as many African political leaders.

My first memory of African Football was watching Cameroon play Italy in the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain.  Cameroon shocked the Italians by scoring first, but the Italians later equalized, and the game ended in a tie.  Especially impressive was goalkeeper Thomas N’Kono, who wore full pants in spite of the summer heat, and wore the collar of his goalkeeping jersey up.  What struck me about Cameroon was how cool and confident they were.  In Italia 90 Cameroon were the joy of an otherwise bland tournament, making it to the quarter finals where they lost in a thrilling match against England.

The Confederations of African Football (CAF) has very nobly tried to spread the wealth of the African Nations Cup by allowing less developed nations host the tournament.    For example, the CAF recently awarded the tournament to Burkina Faso, a small, poor country.

This year it is Angola, a country which had been mired in civil war for decades until peace was finally reached in 2002.  One restive area, however, continued to bubble away in conflict.  This region is known as Cabinda, which is a narrow slice of land North of Angola.   The Angolan government foolishly decided to have Cabinda host a venue for the African Nations Cup.   Emmanuel Adebayor, one of the stars of world football, and his team Togo were one of the teams in the group there.  While the government has claimed to have defeated the rebel group there, the events of last weekend proved otherwise.

Togo’s team bus was attacked soon after crossing the border from Congo into Cabinda.  Three men on the bus were killed including the driver, a press man and an assistant coach.  The reserve keeper had a bullet lodged in his back and, the last I heard, was in critical but stable condition in South Africa. The players hid under their seats while the firing went on or half an hour or so. The footage after it was all over demonstrated the players were in total shock.

What I have found stunning about this is that the Angolan government, and others as well, called on Togo to play on in the tournament.   How people could expect that the players could go on to the pitch and play after suffering such incredible trauma is beyond me.  Adebayor today said that he has lost weight and is unable to eat since the incident.  A few days ago he showed up at a press conference with an Arsenal shirt on rather than that of his current team, Manchester City.  He is clearly not doing well, and who would blame him?  While some of the players wanted to play, they cannot be taken to be thinking straight.

The officials from Togo called their players home.  Reports then came out that the CAF has “disqualified” them from the tournament.  More bungling by the CAF.   Under the tragic circumstances Togo should have been allowed to withdraw without the indignity of being disqualified.

Togo football officials should not go blameless.  Instead of flying their players in to Cabinda, they decided to use a bus, even after Angolan officials had urged all teams to fly their players in to the venues.

In all of this the CAF looks very bad indeed.  They should never have allowed Angola to make Cabinda a venue for the tournament.

In fact, in a World Cup year, the tournament should not be held at all. Imagine how exhausted the players will be when they show up for the World Cup in June, having already played in their domestic leagues, the African Nations Cup, and then going back to their domestic leagues.  The travel alone will exhaust them.  Surely the African Nations Cup should be staggered not to fall on the same year as the World Cup.  In only five months time the South African World Cup will be underway.  Will African teams do well after the crowded schedule of play and travel?  I hope I am wrong, but I think not.

It is time the CAF grew up and made some smart decisions in the interest of African football.  So far the African Nations Cup has been a disaster, and unfortunately the disaster will probably continue, in footballing terms, into the World Cup.


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  1. More like the World Cup should not happen in any year the African Nations Cup is held. Fifa needs to grow up. The African Tournament has been biennial since 1957 and the African nations have still not had the most profound impact in the World Cup, they’ve had their moments just like the Asian teams. Ask any African, they’ll tell you that that is their equivalent of a World Cup and personally, though the World Cup would be too difficult to organize more than every four years in the current format, I often think 4 years is really too long. The African Cup got it right, every 2 years is better. Still, with the Euro 2 years after each World Cup and now being broadcast in the Americas is a pretty equal trade off for those of us with European roots. The last one with Spain was largely outstanding.

    Still, now in hindsight, I did not make my world cup picks until I told my friends until I’d see the African Cup of Nations, it is now very obvious that Nigeria would not have been in shape, Ghana is injured and your point about players “being tired” has its merits, South Africa is not there and I believe Algeria admirably came back from being stunned in their opener…oh yes, and everyone’s favourite Ivory Coast was so-so. Some say they had a crucial goal vs. Algeria waved off. I thought going into the tournament that all of the African teams going to the world cup should not be too intense about this tournament but to use it to fine tune their teams and obviously, it should help them.

    I read the Nigerian news and the people have been upset with their coach and now, there will be some changes. It seems most would like to see Amodu sacked, but now it looks like they are bringing in some extra staff to deal with the question. Unsolved at this writing.

    What if European/other countries played in some sort of tournament before the World Cup?? The friendlies these teams are lining up in some cases, say Mexico are going to be playing as many games as these teams did in the tournament but of course, not in as serious of a setting.

    • Thanks for your considered thoughts, Herman. What you say about the African Cup of Nations is all true, and there is no doubt that there is an enviable enthusiasm for the Cup in Africa. I Think that now Africa gets 5 berths in the World Cup they should take it more seriously. I hope I am wrong but the travel, fixture congestion and anger of the player’s domestic league coaches takes its toll on the players. And look at the results and how they don’t jive with the world cup qualification: Egypt won the Cup (for the third time running) yet have not qualified for the World Cup since 1990, I believe. I wonder if that is because the Coaches of Ivory Coast, Cameroon took it easy because the WC is coming so soon and is actually considered more important. I fear the African Cup of Nations is hindering rather than helping African football in its current format. Sadly I did not get the chance to watch any of it this year. I watched the Ivory Coast- Egypt final last time and found it thrilling.

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