Same Old Story as West Africa Dom­i­nates AF­CON

Diplomat East Africa - - Table of Contents - By ROBIN OBINO

Drawing from the ex­pe­ri­ence of this year’s Africa Cup of Na­tions (AF­CON) qual­i­fiers, a familiar pic­ture emerges; that of the tour­na­ment be­ing dom­i­nated by the West Africans.

For a long time teams from the West African Foot­ball Union ( WAFU) have proved to be a cut above other re­gions such as the Coun­cil of South­ern African Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tions (COSAFA), Coun­cil of East and Cen­tral African Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tions (CECAFA), Cen­tral African Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tions’ Union (UNIFFAC) and the Union of North African Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tions (UNAF).

This year’s tour­na­ment hosted by Equa­to­rial Guinea is not any dif­fer­ent. Al­most half of the 16 teams tak­ing part in the con­ti­nen­tal show­piece are drawn from West Africa while other re­gions were left to share the re­main­der.

Sene­gal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Mali, Burk­ina Faso, Cape Verde and Guinea rep­re­sented West Africa. From the re­main­ing nine slots, North Africa claimed two through Al­ge­ria and Tu­nisia while Congo Braz­zav­ille, Gabon, the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo (DRC), Equa­to­rial Guinea and Cameroon rep­re­sented the Cen­tral Africa. From South­ern Africa, only Zam­bia and South Africa had rep­re­sen­ta­tion whereas East Africa had none.

As the most watched foot­ball spec­ta­cle on the con­ti­nent, the con­sis­tent dom­i­nance by West Africa has the po­ten­tial to in­crease their play­ers’ mar­ketabil­ity in the more com­pet­i­tive Euro­pean leagues, and thereby en­hanc­ing the dom­i­nance of teams from this domain for many years to come.

On the other hand, CECAFA and COSAFA have seen a drop in their for­tunes, as the for­mer block had Ethiopia as its sole rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the pre­vi­ous edi­tion, while the lat­ter has dropped from three to the cur­rent two rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

The group draws were not dif­fer­ent ei­ther. Group D for in­stance pit­ted Ivory Coast, Mali, Cameroon and Guinea. Guinea who qual­i­fied at the ex­pense of Uganda in the qual­i­fiers, fol­low­ing a heart break­ing 2 – 0 victory in Morocco did not how­ever rise to the oc­ca­sion against two na­tions that have rep­re­sented Africa at the world Cup – Ivory Coast and Cameroon hav­ing bun­dled out at the quar­ter fi­nals stage by Ghana.

A pre­view of the pre­vi­ous wins also in­di­cates the Western­ers dom­i­nance in the game. North­erner Egypt is by far the most suc­cess­ful na­tion, with seven wins to their credit, the lat­est of which came in 2010. They have also been run­ners-up once and taken third place on three oc­ca­sions. Ghana and Cameroon have lifted the tro­phy four times apiece, while Nige­ria has three crowns. DR Congo have two, while the Ivory Coast, Zam­bia, Tu­nisia, Su­dan, Al­ge­ria, Ethiopia, Morocco, South Africa and Congo have won it once each.

With this dom­i­nance, most pro­lific play­ers tak­ing part in in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal cham­pi­onships are also from the West. Talk of An­dre Awew, Asamoah Gyan,Em­manuel Agye­m­anang-Abu, Yaya Toure, Di­dier Drogba, Gerv­inho, Di­dier Koman (Ivory Coast) Obi Mikel, Joel Obi, Peter Odimwingie (Nige­ria) Sa­muel Eto’o and Alexander Song (Sene­gal) and the list is end­less. Other re­gions only have count­able in­di­vid­u­als.

While it is im­por­tant not to sug­gest that all African teams en­counter the same prob­lems, or that the same so­lu­tions will work for all sim­i­lar is­sues, it is im­por­tant to out­line changes that would help to make the con­ti­nent more com­pet­i­tive not only in this par­tic­u­lar com­pe­ti­tion but also the World Cup.

Sim­i­larly, it is im­por­tant to ac­knowl­edge that there is no “magic bul­let” for CECAFA, COSAFA, UNIFFAC and UNAF sides. Some of the con­ti­nent’s prob­lems are deeply rooted within struc­tures and sys­tems and may take gen­er­a­tions to over­come. Nat­u­rally, the ex­am­ple of Al­ge­ria, who im­pressed dur­ing last year’s World Cup in Brazil, pro­vides a con­ve­nient tem­plate for the con­ti­nent’s other sides to fol­low

DRIB­BLING; For­mer Zam­bia cap­tain Chris Ka­tongo at a past AF­CON game

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