African Football – Is It The Real Deal At Last?

AFcon

Just so that everyone is clear, this piece should be considered as a follow-up to one that was written a year ago debating on the importance of the Africa Cup of Nations in 2012. Listen!!! the tournament where top 16 countries of Africa compete against each other is critical to world football. About as critical as a healthy circulatory system required to transport oxygen to cells in a human body. A little intense of an example – that.

An added incentive to this year’s edition is that the champions will go on to represent Africa at the Confederations Cup to be held in Brazil later down the year.

The Afcon had always acted as a platform for players individually perform in the hope to get noticed and move abroad to better their financial situation’s. Occasionally, you have those like Didier Drogba or Samuel Eto’o who would desperately want to win this title as the final addition to their long list of trophies existing in their respective closets. 

A victory at the Africa Cup of Nations will help at a micro level. It will generate buzz and insert momentum for individual countries.

But I duly admit that I am a little skeptical about how much success the Afcon can contribute to the continent’s growth at a global level.

As the inaugural kick-off date of January 19th between host nation South Africa and tournament debutants – Cape Verde approached; there had been positive reports on whether the set target of selling approximately 500,000 tickets had been met. A few months ago, CAF secretary-general – Hicham El Amrani, was confident on reaching that goal and with 4/5th of the target already being met, it looks like things are falling into place. They could only have been better according to LOC chief executive Mvubo Mbebe who blamed “budgetary constraints and the short time to market the tournament” for not hitting the target before the first match.

“We do not have the time and resources at our disposal. If we had time, we would have done things differently,” Mbebe said on MTN Football.

He is right to the point where the marketing team had less than two months to promote the tournament as the final draw took place at the end of October. Reaching 4/5th in these few months is a huge testament to their resolve in creating awareness of the game.

But would it suggestively improve TV ratings? Probably. According to CAF, approximately 6.6 billon people viewed the 2012 edition on TV. This is not me making up numbers, it came from the confederation. Furthermore, this time around, there had been no controversies related to TV broadcasts around the continent (have not heard of it at least). Nigerians however are robbed of the live telecasts for the games as Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria (BON) failed to secure rights from the host broadcaster. However, the overall situation is still better than last year which was a pure debacle, as the host broadcaster (French agency Sportfive) was charging enormous dollars to give distribution rights to various media agencies at the country level.

Would it help African and Egyptian powerhouses like Al-Ahly & Zamalek get their own stadium? Highly unlikely. Would it inspire ownership to accelerate any stadium initiatives that may be in the plan, or further arouse a team like South African side Orlando Pirates to cultivate an identity that works? We know better.

Would it improve youth development mechanisms or add money required to further enhance the lives of members of successful teams? Unsure.

But we did get to see DR Congo’s keeper – Robert Kidiaba ride the pitch (his trademark celebration) after his side’s equalizer against Ghana.

It is disappointing not to see teams like Egypt and Senegal in the competition which throws a few questions on whether football is progressing in Africa but then again, teams like Cape Verde and Ethiopia making it through to the final stages might suggest the same otherwise. In fact, Cape Verde did so tremendously well in the Championships that they qualified to the knock-out stages after beating Angola today.

But again, these are just some of the feelings that absorb my thoughts about the Afcon. Quite sure, there are plenty of people out there who may feel differently.

Without the circulatory system the human body dies and similarly but yet clearly, without Africa, football would die.

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