The much anticipated bi-annual African Cup of Nations (AFCON) is back with us once again this time being hosted by two nations, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, where 16 nations will be battling for the coveted trophy, kicking off today with Equatorial Guinea playing Libya followed straight after by Senegal against Zambia, both matches being held in the 37,500-capacity Bata Stadium.
Some of the heavyweights of African football failed to qualify and will not be at this tournament, teams like Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria and more surprisingly the record holding seven-time winners Egypt, will all be missing. Their absence however could be a good chance for top FIFA ranked teams like Ivory Coast and Ghana, alongside other favorites like Morocco and resurged Senegal, to get their hands on the cup.
It’s all intense stuff for African football fans. It has been reported that Teodorin Obiang, the son of Equatorial Guinea President, Teodoro Obiang, has offered the country’s national team a $1 million dollar win bonus if they beat Libya in the opening game. (The Kenya Forum, however, wonders where he got the money from!)
The preparations by the two hosting nations in setting the stage for the other visiting 14 teams has by all accounts been good, giving hope for an exciting period for Africans and football fans from all over the world. It will no doubt again be a colourful event marked by song and dance as always. This year’s mascot is symbolized by a gorilla called “Gaguie” (meaning Gabon and Equatorial Guinea!) sporting a jersey with the colors green, white and blue representing the national colors of the co-host nations.
FIXING THE FIXTURE LIST…
One of the downsides of the tournament is that it deprives European clubs of players just when the fixture list is at its busiest. This has caused several European clubs to call for a rethink of the African Cup of Nations tournament’s schedule.
Not only does it affect clubs and managers but also Europe league lovers from Africa who have to choose between watching the African Cup of Nations and their favorite European club playing. This weekend, for example, marks not just the start of the AFCON tournament, big games in Europe will also be taking place. Arsenal hosts Manchester United and Manchester City entertains Tottenham Hotspurs, as North London seeks to revenge against Manchester in both encounters.
Does it really matter? If you answered “No” you are probably not a Kenyan football fan!
Most Kenyan football fans are likely to be watching the Premier League encounters this Sunday (when the two big matches take place) instead of AFCON Sunday’s fixtures where Ivory Coast play Sudan and Burkina Faso take on Angola.
The Kenya Forum hopes that the AFCON tournament will be as exciting and as successful as anticipated but thinks that the calendar should be adjusted so as not to clash with European football leagues. We believe most of our fellow African football lovers would agree.