Two years of anxious wait, two years of long, tedious and adventurous journey across the continent of Africa to select the best 24 countries to take part at the 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations, two years of ups and downs, highs and lows, the wait for Africa biggest football showpiece is finally over.
Africa’s biggest and best talents from in and outside the continent gather in Egypt, where the AFCON tournament has been held 5 times and unlike the previous editions, this year’s AFCON will be the biggest edition yet with 24 teams and three debutants joining in the party. Moreso, the Video Assistant Referee will be used at the tourney starting from the Quarterfinals, but despite the developments, the AFCON is in danger of been caught in a web of crises rocking African football at the moment.
It isn’t a crises that sprang up overnight, it’s an accumulation of wrong choices, corruption and poor administration by those in charge of the round leather in the continent. Quite amusing, the Continent’s biggest football will kick off with the Continent’s football governing body headed indirectly by FIFA.
This was after, Ahmad Ahmad, president of the CAF was arrested and interrogated for issues relating to Sexual offences before he was cleared and then rearrested for corruption charges which he was released without charges, a string of actions which shows there are issues to be solved in the governing body.
FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura was then appointed general delegate for Africa for six months starting from August 1 till January 2020, as a way of reforming African football’s governing body.
This includes overseeing the operational management of CAF, “efficient and professional organisation of all CAF competitions” as well as supporting the growth and development of football in all African regions.
The introduction of VAR albeit delayed until the knockout stages would have brought a smile to faces of majority African football fans, however after the farcical end to the 2018/2019 CAF Champions League final second leg between Esperance and Wydad where the VAR was said to be unavailable and not working in second leg, it left many wondering if the introduction isn’t too early to the African game.
Not many would have complained if the introduction of VAR into African is delayed till 2021 if it will be for the best and maximum effect and the disgrace of the incident between Esperance and Wydad in Tunisia would have been avoided.
Furthermore, the tournament was initially put into early doubts after the format was increased to 24 teams from the former 16-team format leading Cameroon to be stripped of the hosting after failing to meet up with preparations for the visit of 24 teams, Egypt and South Africa stepped up to bail CAF out, with Egypt winning the bid and hitherto preparations have been going on well save for political unrest brewing in the country.
The question is, if Cameroon can’t host 24 teams, how many African countries have the required economy to host 24 teams every 2 years? It will be a tragedy and more comical than, the awarding of trophy and ordering of the replay of the second leg of the CAF Champions League final, to have the competition revert to 16-teams format in the future if countries can’t meet up.
At least we can’t be confined to the 3-4 countries that can host 24 teams comfortably.
In an isolated case but a related issue of poor administration by football federations in Africa, it was reported earlier in the day that defending champions Cameroon risk disqualification from the tournament after players refused to board the plane due to failed promises by FECAFOOT (Cameroon’s football governing body) and unpaid bonuses.
Although, the issue was half-resolved with players having to fund camping and plane tickets from personal pocket, the last is yet to be heard from the issue and thus becomes a discussion for another day.
Nevertheless, the opening game got off to a spectacular start, with the fans inside the 75,000 capacity Cairo International Stadium treated to an eye-catching opening ceremony that featured giant pyramids on the pitch, elegant dancers forming the shape of a pharaoh’s face and culminating in a huge fireworks display.
Egypt get their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations of to a winning start at a packed Cairo International Stadium.
A fine strike fromKasimpasa striker Mahmoud Trezeguet in the 41st minute was enough for Javier Aguirre’s side in a game which saw the tempo drop off considerably in the second half of the game
Zimbabwe were valiant and full of endeavour but lacked a cutting edge of qualityin their quest to break the Egyptians down.