Same Old Story as West Africa Dominates AFCON
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