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16 Teams, 4 Stages, 1 winner. Its the Africa Cup!
We’re big football fans here at See Africa Differently so with the Africa Cup of Nations starting on Saturday you can imagine how excited we are!
Football is the biggest sport in Africa. Travelling from Tunisia to South Africa you’ll not fall short of the sight of a football being kicked around by youngsters emulating the moves and calling each other the name of their favorite players.
With over 35 African players in the English premiership this season, it’s a clear demonstration of the talent and influence Africa has on arguably one of the world’s most prestigious leagues in the world. From Cote d’Ivoire and Manchester City’s Yaya Toure, Senegal and Newcastle United’s Demba Ba and Morocco and Arsenal’s Maroune Chamakh, African players are making their mark
We have an exclusive treat for you from Justin Addo a FIFA & UEFA Match agent gives us his take on this year’s Africa Cup of Nations.
1.The African Cup of Nations is the only major competition played within the football season. This has major impacts on clubs and decisions on who they sign. Knowing this, How important do you think it is for African players to represent their countries at the tournament?
The African Nations Cup was the first ever continental championship organized for national teams worldwide in 1957, the European championships did not start until 1960. So it is very important for African players to participate in this tournament, as a way of supporting the building of infrastructure in their countries, as well as using football as a platform to unify their countries.
Clubs when they buy players are usually aware of the demands of the African Nations Cup, and one can even argue that this sometimes affects the transfer value of the African players.
2.Premiership players are generally used to ‘well manicured’ pitches and all the best equipment. This is a contrast to many of the pitches they will be playing on during this year’s tournament. Why do you think this competition is important for Africa and it’s players?
Many of the African players would have grown up playing on imperfect pitches, so they would have little trouble adjusting from the ‘well manicured’ European pitches to those at the Nations Cup, if they turn out to be bumpy. I must also add that the two host countries, Gabon & Equatorial Guinea have built new and fantastic stadiums for the tournament, so the facilities, including the pitches will be first class. The tournament is also the single biggest earner for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and the revenue earned will go back to develop grassroots football in Africa.. National pride and a sense of belonging are also major factors in the players representing their countries.
3.Cameroon and Nigeria are notable exceptions from the tournament this year. But there are some first timers such as Botswana in the competition. Do you think that with these big teams missing we will see some of these smaller teams shine?
This year’s tournament is perhaps one of the most open competition in years. Even with the absence of the so called heavy weights like Egypt , Cameroon & Nigeria, the lesser known teams who qualified at the expense of the so called giants are expected to do well. Botswana will be a major threat in their group, having been the first team to qualify, with three games to spare. They have a very good blend of youth and experience, and in their coach Stanley Tshosane having a master tactician to steer them to at least the quarter finals stage. The tournament also goes to show that there are no longer any minnows in African Football. Niger qualified ahead of the more established South Africa and Egypt, and would probably struggle to come out of their group, but the experience gained from this tournament will go a long way in developing Nigerien football.
4.Who do you think are the players and teams to watch?
The players to watch:
Demba Ba ( Senegal)
Felix Katongo ( Zambia)
Djamal Mahamat ( Libya)
Ivan Bolado ( Eq Guinea)
Yaya Toure ( Cote D’Ivoire)
Jonathan Pitriopa ( Burkina Faso)
Flavio ( Angola)
Khalefa Ahmed Hamouda ( Sudan)
Pierre Emerick Aubamayang ( Gabon)
Maroune Chamakh ( Morocco)
Sami Allagui ( Tunisia)
Moussa Mazou ( Niger)
Andre Ayew ( Ghana)
Jordan Ayew ( Ghana)
Jerome Ramatlhakwana ( Botswana)
Modibo Maiga (Mali)
Ismael Bangoura ( Guinea)
5.Your prediction for the winner of the tournament?
The tournament is going to be a straight fight between, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Senegal Morocco. I suspect Ghana will win. But don’t be surprised to see Senegal winning their first ever Afcon.
Justin Addo is a UK based FIFA & UEFA Match agent. He has organized several high profile matches and training camps for teams worldwide. You can follow him on twitter @addoj
"There is more than a single story to be told about Africa. Africa is on the rise & I'll be blogging about this through a medley of themes."
What do you think? Comment below.