THE start of the 2012 African Nations Cup qualifiers for Gabon/Equatorial Guinea marks the end of an era for some of Africa’s top names as the continent prepares for the start of qualifiers for the biennial tournament that would be co-hosted in only the second time since the Confederation of African Football was formed half a century ago.
Perhaps the success attained by both Ghana and Germany at the recent Fifa World Cup finals with relatively young and inexperienced squads have influenced the rest of Africa to follow their examples by discarding so-called veteran big name players as preparations for 2012 and Brazil 2014 gets underway.
A lot of coaches, particularly those in charge of countries that performed dismally at the recent Fifa World Cup finals in South Africa are ringing the changes to their squads with Nigeria the first to give new meaning to youth development by dropping some big name players for the upcoming qualifiers.
Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Sani Keita, Taye Taiwo and Obinna Nsofor have been left out of the Nigerian squad that will do duty in the opening qualifier against Madagascar. The squad has been announced by stand-in coach Augustine Eguavoen as the Nigerian Football Federation is negotiating with Samson Siasia to take charge.
Algerian coach Rabah Saadane has tinkered very little with the squad that ended bottom of their group in South Africa. However, Mehdi Lacen of Racing Santander and Valenciennes Foued Kadir both injured, have been left out of the squad that will play Tanzania in Blida on Friday night.
And young Mohamed Chakouri who plays for Belgian side Charleroi gets his first ever national senior call-up while Kaiserslautern’s offensive midfielder Amri Chadli has been recalled after an absence of two years.
A lot of eyes will be on South African coach Pitso Mosimane on Thursday when he announces the squad that will line-up against Niger in Mbombela on September 4. There has been a lot of speculation regarding the future of captain Aaron Mokoena with some people of the opinion that he could bite the bullet.
Mosimane has indicated that he will start bringing in the younger generation like Kermit Erasmus, Andile Jali and Siyanda Xulu to mention just a few, but he needs to be convinced that the youngsters are capable of delivering otherwise it will serve no purpose to drop MacBeth Sibaya when there is no one in sight with his ball winning skills.
Cameroon open their campaign with an away fixture against minnows Mauritius either at the Indian Ocean Island’s Curepipe or Port Louis but there has been a huge shake-up in both their technical department as well as their administration leading up to the match at this holiday island.
Paul Le Guen has been fired and new man Javier Vincente has taken over. However, veteran Rigobert Song has called it a day after representing the Indomitable Lions in 137 competitive matches and signs are that the like of Geremi Njitap have also come to the end of the road.
The lions of Teranga have long discarded most of the players that put their country on the map at the 2002 FIFA World Cup and while players like El Hadji Diouf are no longer a feature of the national team, a new breed of younger players have been entrusted the task of helping Senegal regain its status, starting with a tough away fixture against the Leopards of the DR Congo in Lubumbashi.
The axe continued to fall on some of the continent’s big name players even down south, with the career of Collins Mbesuma seemingly at the crossroads after new Italian coach Dario Bonetti excluding him from the team that will face the Comoros while five club-less players have received call-ups.
And there are equally serious doubts about the international careers of veterans Benjamin Mwaruwari, Esrom Nyandoro and Washington Nengomasha who have all been dropped by acting Zimbabwe coach Norman Mapeza for their tough away fixture against the Lone Star of Liberia in Monrovia.
Stephen Keshi, Roy Baretto and Otto Pfister are some of the well known coaches who have applied for the vacant Zimbabwe post, but word coming out of Harare is that the “Warriors” are rebuilding and the trio, including Zvenika Makonese is deemed to be far too long in the tooth.
Scot Bobby Williamson has spent a considerable time in South Africa, running the rule over some of Uganda’s players plying their trade in the country and has called up nearly all the “Cranes” employed by various clubs in the ABSA Premiership for the clash against Angola in Kampala.
And Cote d’Ivoire has finally appointed a new coach – Francois Zahoui – to take over from Sven Goran Eriksson. The 48-year old led the “Elephants” to an emphatic 1-0 victory over Italy early this month but he is also expected to ring the changes for the home fixture against Rwanda as some of the golden generation no longer has the legs to carry them.
Already anchorman Didier Zokora has hinted about retirement and it goes without saying that skipper Didier Drogba at 30-years is unlikely to be around should the men from Abidjan qualify for the Fifa 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Ghana, despite their excellent showing at the 2010 World Cup, also faces problems of their own with the long awaited return of inspirational Michael Essien now likely to be much longer than they expected as he has informed the country he needs to be excused from international duty for some time as he wants to concentrate on his club career for the time being.
He has been ruled out of the upcoming clash against Swaziland in Mbabane and injuries have also played havoc with the careers of John Pantsil, John Mensah and veteran captain Stephen Appiah. But at least their conveyor belt of youth development will sustain them for a number of years to come.