Why quality, hype of Afcon has dipped

With our eyes glued to our families’ treasured black and white television sets; we were treated to the top quality African football in the 1990s. That was Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals at its best.
Mansur Kakimba
Mansur Kakimba

With our eyes glued to our families’ treasured black and white television sets; we were treated to the top quality African football in the 1990s. That was Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals at its best.

From Roger Milla, François Omam-Biyik, Hassan Hossam, Abedi Pele, Tony Yeboah, Kalusha Bwalya, Rashid Yekini, Jay Jay Okocha, Emmanuel Amunike, Sunday Oliseh, Daniel Amokachi to Doctor Khumalo, Shaun Bartlett and Mark Williams each tournament was beauty to watch.

The Stadiums could fill to capacity. Our regional national teams never featured but still East Africans were so enthusiastic about the continent’s best football tournament.

Stadiums would be covered by promotional adverts of various companies. All this is steadily slipping away!

Today, you even fail to name ten stars that can match those of the 90s. Players then loved so much to play for their national sides.

I don’t see that in our current stars. Since 2013 AFCON begun I have seen lots of heavy legs, clumsy movements, and many uncoordinated formations... It is all flat!

The weekend that saw Chelsea battle it out with Arsenal at Stamford, Sunday Jan 20, majority of sports fans in and around Kigali ignored the two AFCON matches at Nelson Mandela Bay; Ghana-DR Congo and Mali-Niger in favour of English Premier League.

One major reason for the dip in both quality and hype of AFCON is the general lack of the technical abilities among teams—which has failed to reproduce the beautiful African Game.

I have not seen any coach so far as technical as say Hassan Shehata of Egypt. As though Mzee’s side is not at World Cup, we cannot forget how he put the much talented West African sides on their toes.

Team selection by most national coaches remains questionable. For instance, how could Didier Drogba captain Ivory Coast—he hasn’t been on form lately. In their opening game with Togo, although they won, he completely did not rise to the occasion.

The Tunisian born French Coach Sabri Lamouchi had no option but to pull him off after balloning a number of free-kicks way in the skies.

Lazy African coaches think playing international football in Europe is a guarantee to top form. I say No to this thinking. There is goal drain at Afcon 2013 simply because you apparently lack good African strikers.

Goals are coming from midfielders. We all see defences are having flaws and gaps that any sharp striker can exploit—but goalless draws have dominated the tournament. Creativity in the final third is lacking in all teams so far—which explains why there’s no excitement in the stands. Funs have waited for goals but in vain...strikers are not hungry for goals.

There’s no even flair close to Jay Jay’s. Historically, Aficans are used to flair, that’s why we now adore Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ronaldhino. It all stopped with Okocha and Kanu...

The body language of some (African) international Stars sends a message that they’re untouchables.  They’ll play after all. You see them dropping balls and don’t even chase. They don’t work hard enough to back up their playmates when they are out of position.

They don’t even seem bothered. It is sheer lack of team spirit, mainly because their mind is stuck in Europe. This explains why most goals of 2013 AFCON so far have come in the ending minutes. This is time when some players have completely switched off, praying hard for the final whistle. Before they know it an equaliser is already at the back of the net...just a few seconds to the end.

I think what will revamp African soccer to the level of those glorious days of 80s and 90s is nations investing much more in the sport, especially in terms of nurturing local talent right from the grassroots.

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