Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
Africa’s year of soccer scarcely could have got off to a worse
Days before the start of the African Nations Cup — a
warm-up for the continent’s first World Cup in South Africa this
June — the gun attack on Togo’s national team by separatists in
Angola for many will confirm Africa’s reputation for chaos.
The ambush of the team bus as it wound its way through the
restive enclave of Cabinda left the driver dead, nine wounded
and a huge question mark over whether the tournament can proceed
– despite host Angola’s pledges to heighten security.
Sceptics of Africa’s ability to pull off major events of
this kind will be saying “I told you so”.
The progress of two Nigerian teams into the group phase of the African Champions League defies the supposed impact of the continuing exodus of the country’s top talent to almost every distant footballing corner of the world.
Kano Pillars caused a major upset last month with their shock win over defending champions Al Ahly, albeit on the away goal rule, while Heartland FC eliminated last year’s runners-up Coton Sport of Cameroon at the same stage of the competition. Both results plunged the established order into disarray and offer now the Nigerians a chance to prove their immense resources.
This is more than two applications per available ticket although there is likely to be much more demand for the matches during the exciting knockout phase of the tournament than for the opening two weeks of group play.
For all their prowess at the last two continental championships, and their glittering array of successes at club level, Egyptian soccer is becoming increasingly haunted by the spectre of continued failure to make it to biggest footballing showpiece of them all.
The proposed 6+5 regulation that FIFA president Sepp Blatter has been vigorously touting will mean less chance for African players to find lucrative employment with clubs in Europe, where the vastly better pay makes it a destination of choice for so many footballers from this continent.
Blatter wants to ensure more local players feature in domestic football, which over the years in Europe has become blurred by liberal EU labour laws and the mass migration of footballing talent in all directions.
It is 10 years ago, for example, since a club in the English Premier League last fielded an all-English side and, although as a product the premier league has become a world brand because of its world starts, there is a move now to restrict the number of foreigners playing in England and elsewhere.
It is hard to fathom what the motivation for Jean Thissen’s decision would be. He takes on the job as national team coach of Togo just over two weeks before the resumption of Africa’s World Cup qualifiers and with the very real prospect of having to do without his best player.
Thissen is the third new coach to take over at the helm of a side who are still in the World Cup race and set out at the end of this month on the final leg of the fight for one of the five berths for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.
A new soccer tournament is being played out in Ivory Coast this week to indifference from most of the continent. The African Nations Championship is proving to be the damp squib it always looked in danger of becoming.
The CHAN, keeping up the rich tradition of abbreviations for African sporting events, is a tournament designed to give more international competition to players based on the continent.