Make sure that you have read our Introduction here
Left Out: Big names and Even Bigger Egos
|Peter Odemwingie was one of the stars to not grace AFCON 2013|
AFCON 2013 saw a number of big names miss out due to either falling out with their respective International team coaches or simply displaying poor form.
In the past, leaving out a big name player could well lead to dismissal for the coach. But it seems that coaches are now more confident in their squad selections even when they do not include the stars playing abroad.
Players such as West Bromwich Albion striker Peter Odemwinge (Nigeria), QPR’s playmaker Adel Taraabt (Morocco) and the Olympique Marseille duo of Ayew brothers Andre and Jordan (Ghana) were left out by their respective team coaches for displaying either potentially disruptive or disrespectful behavior.
Coaches also did not hesitate to leave out big names who have been poor performers at club level. Marouane Chamakh was left out of the Morocco squad after struggling to find both form and regular playing time at Arsenal while Ghana’s General Captain, John Mensah, was also not included in the squad as he had not been with a club for six months.
It seems this turn of events has been as a result of added confidence shown from coaches in the crop of talent within Africa as opposed to struggling with European based players’ egos. AFCON 2013 winning Coach Stephen Keshi is a perfect example of this policy and local based player Sunday Mba’s overall display in the tournament is evidence that he had a valid point. No individual is greater than the team.
Burkina Faso: The People’s Champion
|Burkina Faso players in a huddle during their quarter final win over Togo|
Few expected Burkina Faso to go all the way to the final. By doing so, they pulled quite a surprise.
Given their resilience and never say die attitude, they totally deserved it. During the whole competition, they showed what they can do. Under dogs they may have been called, but they beat the likes of Togo and so called powerhouses of African football; Ghana.The Stallions were well organized under the stewardship of Belgian Coach Paul Put. In defence, Mohammed Koffi , Bakari Koné, Paul ‘Keba’ Koulibaly and Madi Panandétigiuri protected Daouda Diakité’s goal to the point that they conceded only four goals. There was great link-up between the midfield trio of captain Charles Kabore, Florent Rouamba and Djakaridja Koné . And even when deprived of their best striker in Alain Traoré due to injury, the forward trident of Jonathan Pitroipa, Prejuce Nakoulma and Aristide Bancé all but made up for the Lorient striker’s absence.
They played purposeful football all through, each department doing its work and living up to the expectations that they managed to set as they slowly progressed further into the tournament.With determination, they managed to top Group C, ahead of defending champions Zambia, and now, current champions Nigeria. Resilience, dedication and giving it everything sums up Burkinabe’s performance at AFCON 2013. T
he Stallions made the Burkina Faso Republic proud and rightfully so, a public holiday was declared to celebrate their silver medal finish.
They showed that it is no longer about big names but about preparedness, dedication, attitude and teamwork. Nigeria may have won AFCON2013 but in the hearts of many, Burkina Faso were the people’s champion.
North African Football Needs an Arab Spring
|Floyd Ayite of Togo (right) ensures that Tunisia’s Khaled Mouelhi (left) cannot get to the ball|
2013 was the nadir.
North African football had been in steady decline since Egypt last lifted the Nations Cup trophy in Angola in 2010. At AFCON 2013, none of the North African teams made it past the first round.
The political revolution that swept across the region beginning in 2011 may be to blame for such a dismal showing. The Arab Spring affected not only the lives of the citizens in the countries in which it sprang but also the neighbouring countries. As such, when life is affected, so too is football.
True as that may be it does not tell the whole story. For at this tournament, North African football still maintained its major trait – technique. North Africans played their football as they always have – in a technical manner.
Ultimately though, it seemed as if they lacked physique and stamina to complement their technique. Their players were regularly bullied off the ball by stronger opponents. Inevitably, inability to compete muscularly led to them fizzling out late on in games. Tunisia did so towards the end of their 3-0 loss against the Ivorians; Morocco in their 2-2 draw with South Africa; and Algeria’s dead rubber tie against Ivory Coast saw the Desert Foxes let slip a two nil lead.
North Africa’s talent and technique thus counts for nothing if it cannot be sustained for 90 minutes, or cannot keep hold of the ball against stronger, more muscular opponents.
Hence the need for change. North African football’s technical basis must ensure that its fulcrum counters the physique and stamina of the rest of Africa. In a way thus, just as North Africa endured the Arab Spring, its football must undergo a revolution of its own.
Beautiful Stadia, Ugly Pitches
|Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit under construction prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. At AFCON 2013, the pitch at times resembled the sand used to build it.|
Having hosted a spectacular 2010 World Cup with credit specifically going to the high standards of sporting facilities and infrastructure, South Africa was the most obvious choice to host the 2013 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) at such short notice after Libya withdrew following the political turmoil in the country.
Once again all eyes were on South Africa with many expecting to see the beautiful stadiums that were the envy of many world wide during the World Cup.
For AFCON 2013, five beautiful cities played host to the tournament, yet the condition of the pitches was far from beautiful. Apart from Soccer City (also known as FNB stadium, or The National Stadium) which hosted the opening and closing games, the poor state of the pitches in the other stadiums was an eye sore to a tournament that was being broadcast the world over.
The Local Organizing Committee (LOC) for the tournament should have made a better effort to prepare the pitches. Nelspruit’s Mbombela Stadium in particular stood out with its dry sandy pitch, which might have affected the quality of football being played there as many players could be seen struggling to play while at the same time trying to avoid injuries through falling.
This overshadowed an otherwise successfully hosted tournament. Players kept complaining, viewers kept commenting negatively and this should be avoided at all costs for any successful hosting of such other events in Africa in future – especially from such capable hosts as South Africa.
The Whistle has Been Blown Incorrectly
|Daniel Bennet may be one of the continent’s finest referees, but he certainly did not show it at AFCON 2013|
Yet again, referees took centre-stage, be it for all the wrong reasons.
Anyone who watched AFCON 2013 would readily agree that match officiating standards fell way below expectations. Most of the refereeing decisions led many to doubt their credentials as well as question the seriousness of CAF in ensuring fair and competent officiating of matches.
AFCON is a tournament that is watched by millions of people across the globe and it was appalling to see even seasoned referees making decisions that defied logic on such a grand stage; awarding dubious penalties, waving off of stonewall penalties, booking the wrong player and harsh bookings and sending offs.
The list of jaw-dropping decisions is endless and it was not surprising that the feeling that match officials were compromised crept up. There was even a conspiracy theory that CAF may have wanted to make certain that some teams do not progress further in the tournament.
Whatever the case may be, a lot is at stake in the modern game and therefore it is high time the referees get their act together. Stakes are not only high for the coaches and players who are left to bemoan refereeing decisions that went against them but also for referees themselves. Officiating at a tournament of the stature of AFCON is a stepping stone to better things if the opportunity is well used. Taking charge of matches at the FIFA World Cup or other prestigious FIFA Tournaments is the dream of every referee but this can be hindered by below-standard officiating. They only taint their image and ruin their CV in the process of lazy refereeing. The ball is in their court. The whistle has been blown on them.
[ All images courtesy of zimbio.com ]