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Africa looks to more excitement with AFCON

Here are Africa’s female trailblazers’ football coaches

The Confederation of African Football (CAF’s) oldest male national football competition, the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) was first held in 1957 kicked off on Sunday, January 9 in Cameroon.

AFCON, the most popular international association football competition in Africa has since 1968 been held every two years, switching to odd-numbered years in 2013.

In the AFCON maiden tournament held in 1957, only three countries participated, Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia. South Africa, which was initially scheduled to compete, was disqualified as a result of the apartheid government in power then.

The number of teams for the tournament grew to 9 in 1961 at Addis Ababa, and for the first time, there was a qualification round to determine the 4 teams that would play for the title. Host Ethiopia and reigning champion Egypt received automatic berths and were joined in the final four by Nigeria and Tunisia.

Because the tournament is arguably Africa’s best international football fiesta, the continent should celebrate it, irrespective of the setbacks from the pandemic and European conspiracy.

African football is pure, passionate, and exhilarating. It is the sort of tournament that makes you fall back in love with the game.

The tournament has produced many world football stars from Africa such as George Weah, Samuel Eto-o, Kanu Nwankwo, Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, Jay-Jay Okocha, Abedi Ayew ‘Pele’, Essam El-Hadary, Michael Essien, Roger Milla, among others.

Read also: Super Eagles land in Cameroon, set sight for AFCON glory

Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament started on a good note meeting expected international standards. Africans have shown that though they might not yet be there technology-wise, yet by the flagship of the competition the continent has made giant strides against all odds.

Like it is believed, every football tournament brings with it its flutter of anticipation; that moment when reservations take a back seat and the simple joy of football takes root. Many African football lovers were seen bursting with enthusiasm and anticipation cheering their players from Cameroon to Burkina Faso, Ethiopia to Cape Verde Nigeria to Egypt, and other African countries.

It was a beauty to behold African football players in the field of play in Cameroon jostling for glory as they display the talents that made them great and sought after in the world. It is Africa’s time to celebrate and Africans must celebrate. If one does not say, ‘here am I’, nobody will tell him, ‘there you are!’

At the international club football levels, African footballers play the leading roles in their clubs, especially in Europe. That no doubt is expected to be reflected in this competition. African footballers are here to battle for glory. And it means the tournament has a fighting chance of being remembered positively.

African football fans will be entertained by the array of stars from Europe and beyond such as Mohamed Salah (Egypt), Riyad Mahrez (Algeria), Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria), Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal), Kelechi Iheanacho (Nigeria), Sadio Mane (Senegal), Edouard Mendy (Senegal), Maxwel Cornet (Ivory Coast), Samuel Chukwueze (Nigeria), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon), etc; are on the ground in Cameroon.

Football is the game that allows African fans to forget their troubles and domestic differences and come together for a few hours, where their hopes and dreams, joy and despair, are shared as one.

For hundreds of millions of Africans daily life can be so hard and where their international footprint in politics, economics, and other sports is often limited, it can seem more amplified, more visceral, and even more meaningful. The Cup of Nations has long been the touchstone for all this emotion and now, expanded to 24 teams; it is touching ever more people.

Africans should celebrate the sheer determination to shun all critics and forge on with the tournament. A week or so before Christmas articles were doing the rounds about European fans celebrating on Twitter at reports the tournament might be canceled. That is the height of love Europeans have for the continent.

We must rally around CAF and our footballers in the tournament for standing out to be counted. Besides, Africans should celebrate because not only will they enjoy the tournament far more but may also discover a new favourite player. Maybe younger African stars will shine and they can follow their career and remember the first time they watched them with a general sense of fondness.