African Nations Cup becoming a victim of its own success
The African Nations Cup is growing too big for its own good, if the chaos surrounding the organisation in Ghana at the start of this year’s event is anything to go by.
With a larger cast of internationally recognisable stars and the teams improving in quality, the Nations Cup is now much more than just Africa’s premier sporting event; it commands considerable interest worldwide.
The supporting cast around the event gets larger with each passing edition — the officials, the supporters, the journalists, the agents and those with commercial interest in Africa’s top event.
The title sponsors alone had 1,700 guests for the opening match, several hundred flown in from other African countries. The media numbers have now passed the 1,000 accreditation mark and the phalanx of agents and business people now dealing in the African game seemingly doubles with every tournament.
Throw into that mix the fact that Ghana’s proximity to many of the participating nations means there are considerable number of fans on hand too. The Ivory Coast, Benin, Nigeria, Mali, even Senegal have large bands of travelling support.
Ghana is bursting at the seams, its infrastructure barely able to handle the tournament.
Hotels are at premium and some proprietors are unashamedly profiteering, with rooms being offered for as much as US$300 per night. Telecommunications are heaving under the strain and the pure size of the Nations Cup circus looks close to impossible for the local organisers to manage.
Many teams have had to endure arduous journeys to their end destination and then arrived at hotels that are sub-standard. Defending champions Egypt went through a series of comically incompetent blunders before arriving in Kumasi. They took a single look at their hotel and promptly set about finding better accommodation.
Ghana has built four impressive stadiums for the event but tournaments require much more. Take this from Ghana coach Claude Le Roy, who slammed the state of the pitch after his side’s 2-1 win over Guinea on Sunday:
“The first thing is not the quality of the armchair in the VIP room but it is the quality of the pitch and in more than 20 years in Africa, it’s the worst pitch I’ve ever seen in my career,” he said of the field at the Ohene Djan stadium.
If one of Africa’s larger economies is battling so, how will Angola, still ravaged after decades of civil war, cope in 2010 when they host the event for the first time?
Mark Gleeson is covering the African Nations Cup in Ghana for Reuters. See our main soccer site for full coverage.
PHOTO: A Ghana supporter in a mask is seen before the opening match against Guinea in the African Nations Cup in Accra, January 20, 2008. REUTERS/Bruno Domingos