Friday, 15 February 2008

African Cup of Nations

Yes it's over and the Egyptian Pharaohs crowned Kings ( sort of double word play there!). Thanks again to small wonders of sports, my fellow countrymen were able to divert their attention from the miseries of the country's and continent's crisis. Is it me or does Africa always have to shot itself in the foot all the time? One crisis after another with almost similar patterns and similar players. International community condemns only after having served up the appetites or whipped up passions...I digress !
The Ghananians did host this event which occurs after every 2 years and this year the teams playing up were looking good. Add to that most of the European-based players had been recalled to play major roles in their teams' fortunes. Funny though the team that won has more players playing in their domestic league. What does that say of the African leagues ?
The formbook had Ivory Coast looking like the best team but that was on paper. Ghana too had been touted to give the Cup a kiss at least for the first time infront of their home fans. Some really cocked up analysts even gave the Nigerians a chance but again the game is played on the pitch not on paper.
A couple of suprises (though for me were looking good) were the Angolans who made it to the quarter-finals to be knocked out narrowly by eventual winners Egypt. Cameroonians too rode the wave and managed a Final place but they had survived long enough.
A few issues though came up for food for thought as I watched the games;
1. TV rights- from the audience available, is African football ready enough to appeal to the greater world audience ? Does it have what it takes to sell the brand to greater audiences ?
2. Frequency- does it have to be every 2 years ? That's why some of the foreign club-based coaches are not amused when their players leave training only for some to come back nursing long-term injuries.
3. Host's capabilities- the usual stories of unco-ordinated activities such passes for media players, transport, security came into play once again.
4. Endorsements- was it just me or did any one notice that Puma was like the ONLY company that had sponsored the teams playing ? From hosts Ghana, Cameroon, Angola to eventual winners Egypt. Wherefore art thou Nike, Reebok, Adidas ? Or are the games too small for your take ?
5. Youth development- except for Manucho from Angola and Zidan from Egypt and a few minor players, where the youthful players always waiting in the wings to rise to the occassion? Wasn't this the best stage to show your skills as the scouts ( and some prominent soccer personalities, was that Jose Mourinho I saw?)
6. 2010- What does this portend for South Africa which seeks to host the 2010 World Cup ? Will they manage to sort the stadia problem in time as well as the necessary infrastructure? Goodwill from fellow African countries ?

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