Neither the glamour of the Premier League nor the allure of La Liga Santander will stop me from watching the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) starting today in Gabon.
On an ordinary day I should have been waxing lyrical about Super Sunday which will showcase two big fixtures starting with Everton v Man City followed by Man United v Liverpool. These are feisty matches whose results will definitely affect the standings at the top of the Premier League.
Of course, Afcon appears to have lost the appeal it had in the days of the likes of Rigobert Song, Mustafa Haji, Jay Jay Okocha, Lucas Radebe, Elhaji Diouf… the days when football was football.
But the modern Afcon has got its own fine moments, too. Previously one could not imagine an Afcon tournament without traditional powerhouses such as Nigeria and South Africa with their fine blend of stars.
But today we are experiencing such scenarios not because Nigeria and South Africa are poor. Rather countries that were considered small and peripheral on the continent, have improved tremendously to challenge the so-called powerhouses.
There is no small team on the continent now. This is why we have the likes of Guinea Bissau, Uganda and Zimbabwe qualifying for the Afcon tournament.
What has also contributed to this growth in standards is the return of foreign-trained players to play for their motherland. The case of Crystal Palace’s Wilfred Zaha who will feature for Cote d’ Ivoire at this tournament.
What is interesting about this tournament is that most teams are bringing young and inexperienced teams after doing away with the old who have since retired.
Cote d’ Ivoire no longer have the Yaya Toures and the Didier Drogbas. Cameroon has done away with the likes of Samuel Eto’o in the same manner Ghana has done away with the Michael Essien, Kelvin Prince Boateng and the Sully Muntaris. Senegal, too, is a new look team with the Sadio Mane as the new leader. Egypt, too, has undergone a complete overhaul.
This makes the tournament difficult to predict on who will be favourites. Of course, you expect Cote d’ Ivoire, Algeria, Ghana, Senegal, Cameroon not to miss qualifying into the quarter-final stage.
The tournament kicks off at 5pm with the hosts Gabon against newcomers Guinea Bissau who are not to be underrated at all as they have the potential to surprise everyone. The second match sees old foes Burkina Faso squaring against Cameroon from 8.30pm.
I will be supporting Zimbabwe because they have some Malawian players in their squad like South Africa’s Player of the Year Khama Billiati who is from Dedza, just to mention but few. Zimbabwe kick off the tournament on Sunday against Algeria. Enjoy the matches. n