Television remote wars can break up homes – ugly looks passed across sitting rooms, awkward silences ending in one unlucky soul sleeping on the couch. That’s life sometimes.
Every now and then, though, this tragic in-house skirmish is worth it… The Africa Cup of Nations is here – it’s time to witness a proper celebration of
As you read this the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) will have reached its business end where men have been separated from boys and the climax of this unique four-week festival is nigh.
So, what’s all the fuss about, you may ask.
Well, for one, this isn’t just a football tournament; instead the Nations Cup has become a symbol of pride for the continent, one inextricably tied with
road to emancipation. Steeped in tradition, the Nations Cup is about more than
lifting a trophy, it’s a chance at immortality.
That this edition is in
adds further romance, a renaissance
moment of sorts, and a realisation how far the tournament and the continent
have come since the first Afcon in 1957. South
Africa Cup of Nations in 1957
When the Africa Cup of Nations was first mooted in June 1956 none of its founding members –
Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia
– would have envisaged its growth. South Africa
Against a backdrop of oppressive colonialism, football was both an escape and source of pride and the Nations Cup would be a free
Still, challenges were such that the first Nations Cup was no more than a three-team championship between
Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia
was disqualified because of its apartheid policies. Its roots, though, had been
formed. South Africa Africa’s nations would henceforth
compete for the “African Unity Cup”.
The result was a golden age of success for
’s Black Stars but also a
period in which Nkrumah passionately advocated Pan-Africanism. In 1960, 17
African countries gained independence from European colonial powers. The number
nearly doubled over the next three years and in 1963, May 25, 32 independent
African states formed the Organization of African Union, the precursor to today’s
African Union. Ghana
That’s the essence of the Nations Cup, its beauty. It transcends the game.
More often than not teams are playing for their people.
victory united a country. At last year’s edition in South Africa Equatorial
Guinea and Gabon,
Libya’s team played for
unity amidst political in-fighting at home while dedicated their tournament victory
to their Chipolopolo predecessors killed in a plane crash in 1993. Zambia
Today, eight of the 16 nations competing at this year’s tournament are listed as having ongoing military conflict back home. When
Seydou Keita scored the winner in his side’s opening match against Niger he revealed a simple message: “Peace for ”. Mali
This is a critical juncture in the history of the tournament. In some ways the Nations Cup has become unsure of its place. This is the first Afcon since 1965 held in an odd-year in an attempt to avoid a clash with the World Cup. Critics have lamented how often the championship is played, others its quality.
So, Afcon 2013 is significant.
It’s significant to a South African nation that’s recently suffered the blight of xenophobia and fallen away from its embrace of African football competition that once made it so formidable. It’s significant because it’s an opportunity to eliminate a worrying lethargy in the continent’s administrators that has, in recent years, deprived
Africa the spectacle the Nations
Cup should be.
It’s significant too for
a wake-up call hopefully, because once again our country is being left out of
the festivities, not because of a lack of talent, but a lack of fortitude. Lesotho
The Africa Cup of Nations has grown into a championship of 16 teams, divided into four groups of four each. The top two from each group progress to the quarterfinals with the knockouts continuing until a winner emerges in the final at
February 10. Johannesburg
Didier Drogba leads the Ivory Coast
Thus far it has been difficult to pick a team to go all the way such is the wide-open nature of the tournament and African football in general in recent times. Nevertheless,
should be considered heavy favourites for the title. It’s a tag the Elephants hold for a fifth successive
tournament and one they haven’t revelled in. It is one of the great mysteries
how this golden generation has failed to win any silverware since its rise to
prominence in 2006. Ivory Coast
are a formidable team. They are Africa’s top-ranked team and have not lost a match
in regular playing time since a friendly in Ivory Coast in late 2010. There’s also a
realisation this could be the last chance for many of the squad, notably captain
Didier Drogba, to capture this Holy Grail. Poland
Without star players Andre Ayew, Sulley Muntari, Michael Essien and John Mensah it may be easy to overlook
threat, but that’s where the danger lies. Physically strong, tactically astute
and technically gifted, the Black Stars are perhaps the perfect football hybrid. Ghana
side is physical, a seemingly deliberate throwback by coach Stephen Keshi to the
Super Eagles sides he played in, with players like Rashidi Yekini, in the
mid-nineties. That was a period of success which included a 1994 Nations Cup
win and a 1996 Olympic gold medal. Once again raw power, speed and breath-taking
athleticism are Nigeria ’s
game. And, once again, it will be difficult to stop. Nigeria
With Emmanuel Adebayor in tow, anything is possible for the Sparrows. The lanky striker has a talismanic ability rarely found. As a footballer he has it all. His only problem is desire. Still, Adebayor’s past feats are remarkable. He inspired an unknown
Togo to the 2006 World Cup, scoring 11 goals in
the qualifiers, more than any other player in Africa.
If he’s motivated Adebayor can carry this team as far as he wishes.
|The Big Prize...|
Zambia captain Chris Katongo kisses the
Nations Cup trophy
Regardless who emerges victorious, this is
in the limelight. Since its inception the Nations Cup has been about extending
the hand of friendship to neighbours cut off from one another by borders they
had no say in creating. It’s always been about promoting a common African unity
and maintaining a promise to keep ploughing forwards as a people.
So next time those remote wars spring up, stand for your ground. There’s always a story at the Afcon, and above all – it’s time to celebrate
28 January 2013