This year Africa’s in the sports arena for all the right reasons. First to shine the spotlight is definitely the Confederation of Africa's (CAF) African Cup of Nations being held in Angola which is just a stone’s throw away from South Africa, which hosts the World Cup in June later on this year.
As expected in many respects, this is a dress rehearsal for most of the teams which qualified for the World Cup from Africa.
But not everyone is celebrating Africa’s premiere football showcase as Mark Murphy notes:
If this year’s African Cup of Nations in Angola has entered the psyche of English football fans at all, it is because of the cataclysmic effect on Chelsea’s Premier League title hopes of a month without Didier Drogba
David James also wonders aloud in an article for Sports Blog:
With Chelsea flying there is plenty of speculation as to how they will cope without Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, Salomon Kalou and Mikel John Obi
Quite a number of English clubs will lose their players to the tournament with Chelsea and Portsmouth being the biggest casualties. Plagued by financial difficulties, Portsmouth has been living from hand to mouth and currently lie last in the English Premier League.
‘African Cup of Nations will hit us but who wouldn’t want to be there?’
…we have had so many other things to worry about – not getting paid, having another change of manager, being bottom of the league – that the thought of players going missing in a few weeks’ time has not yet come to the fore. Of course it will be a big blow to us. We don't have the biggest of squads, and to lose some of our best players will have a huge impact. When our players do return there could be a host of other problems, such as mental and physical fatigue, adjusting to the difference in temperature, and injuries. So what do the Portsmouth players themselves think? To gauge opinion I had a chat with some of them over dinner, and the only thing anyone wanted to talk about was who would win the competition
The hosts, Angola will be hoping to save their blushes after failing to qualify for the World Cup after a promising period in 2008 as noted by Oliver:
After a successful stint in the 2008 African cup of nations, Angola were awarded the rights to host the tournament for the first time in its twenty six year history. Angola, who have only featured in the competition four times, preceded to the quarter finals in 2008”
But going by the first game against Mali they must wish the fortunes are better and pray (and play too) hoping to make it through the knock-out rounds of the quarter-finals and looking forward to replicating Egypt’s success of hosting the Cup and winning 1986/2006(along with other nations such as Sudan-1970,Ghana -1978, Algeria-1990, South Africa-1996);
Another country hoping to change their fortunes is last tournament’s hosts, Ghana. Should Ghana be taken seriously?:
Should Ghana be taken seriously?”– It goes on to ask if they shall find comfort with “John Mensah, John Pantsil, Stephen Appiah, Laryea Kingston are all nursing injuries while Muntari was famously overlooked”
It goes on further to say,
“Soon after the draw for the CAN several media pundits installed Ghana as joint favourites together with La Cote D’ivoire. Well that was before the injury crisis, but still that is the expectation this young team is up against-to at least make the final
The Indomitable Lions- as the Cameroonians have their old but vastly experienced players to put through their case as their iconic players look to hang the boots in pride. Cameroon is led by Rigobert Song who plays in his eighth African Cup of Nations tournament:
Cameroon promise to be strong. Their manager, Paul Le Guen, has found a way of ensuring star striker Samuel Eto'o does not feel the need to scamper all over the pitch in search of the ball, and the skilful Betis midfielder Achille Emana has become the prime conduit to the Inter star. In the centre of defence Cameroon boast one of the hottest prospects in African football, the 20-year-old Monaco centre-back Nicolas N'Koulou, who has been compared to a young Franco Baresi. What is more, in a tournament where few of the teams have top-class goalkeepers, Cameroon are an exception: Carlos Kameni is excellent
The other countries expected to make run-ins in the title chase include past winners Tunisia, Algeria, Nigeria and the West African states of Mali and Burkina Faso. Togo team decided to go back home following the attack on the team bus in Cabinda:
The heartbreaking attack on the Togo team bus in rural Cabinda, an Angolan territory geographically separated from the rest of the nation, on the eve of the 2010 African Nations Cup upset me deeply. Foremost, I’m upset about the dead and wounded; I’m upset that the vile geo-political mix of oil, land, terrorism, and inequality claimed innocent lives and injured the travelling party of a soccer team that was interested in nothing more than a game. But I’m also upset about the potential for the ambush to detract from what should be a great year for African soccer—and to further distort perceptions of Africa
Cameroonian blogger George Fominyen discusses the incident in a post titled “Death in the Africa Cup's group of death”:
When four West African neighbours were drawn to play in group “B” of the African Cup of Nations in the enclave of Cabinda, pundits named it the “group of death”. But they were far from imagining that someone will die from gun-shot wounds two days before the kick-off of the tournament.
Ethan Zuckerman discusses the incident in a wider context arguing that “what happens in Cabinda doesn't stay in Cabinda”:
Actually, hosting Africa’s biggest football tournament – that is, up until the World Cup later this year – was probably a good branding move for Angola, which has made vast strides since the Angolan civil war ended in 2002. The mistake was in holding one of four sets of matches in Cabinda. It proved to be a tragic, deadly mistake: Separatist guerillas attacked a convoy of team buses, led by Angolan military, as they travelled from Congo-Brazaville into Cabinda, killing three members of the Togolese national team’s entourage and wounding nine others.
On a lighter note, Brucio offers American viewers options of viewing the African Cup of Nations:
No regular USA cable or dish packages have the games. You need the African or Middle East package. If you have no idea how to see the games then I would suggest calling all the African restaurants and bars in your town to find out who is showing them
Dary, however, has tips on how to watch the tournament from the US, UK and Australia:
Unless you have a ticket to an Angola 2010 game, there are basically three ways to watch the African Cup of Nations 2010. Option One is to watch it on TV. Option Two, you can watch a legal, high quality internet stream. Option Three, you take your chances with a barely legal pirated internet stream.
There are also some interesting facts about this year’s African Cup of Nations which now has 17 countries competing:
Did you know? The youngest player is Zambia’s defender Emmanuel Mbola, only 16 at the kick off of the African Cup of Nations. The oldest is Mozambique’s midfielder Nelinho, aged 38. Each squad has called up 23 players, save from Burkina Faso who arrived in Angola with only 22. Forward Aristide Bancé had a fallout with his coach Paulo Duarte and refused to play. 66 of the 367 players play in France, the African Cup’s number 1 provider. OGC Nice reluctantly sent 8 of its players to Angola: Poté (Benin), Bamogo (Burkina Faso), Faé (Ivory Coast), Mouloungui (Gabon), Traoré and Bagayoko (Mali), Apam (Nigeria), Ben Saada (Tunisia).
Dary has compiled a list of 11 players to watch:
Everyone knows about Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba and Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o. The superstars of African football. Most will know about Mali’s Fredi Kanoute and Seydou Keita too. You don’t need WorldCupBlog to tell you about them. So we thought we’d compile a list of 10 players to watch at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, featuring talented youngsters and other players with slightly lower profiles than those listed above.
Mamadou Gaye discusses the match between Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso and says, “The best is yet to come”:
Hello and welcome to my first blog on SuperSport.com. I look forward to exchanging views and ideas with you through this medium. You can also catch me on Soccer Africa and during SuperSports’ coverage of the Afcon on SS3 and SS4.
I think the game between Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso was a good one. It was pacey and very tactical.