The Or­ange CAN could be fun to watch without the pain of watch­ing Bafana

Where there’s a Wills

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - MIKE WILLS

THIS is go­ing to hurt. The Or­ange CAN is open­ing in Luanda to­mor­row night and we’re not in­vited.

The An­golan hosts are us­ing the Por­tuguese ab­bre­vi­a­tion, CAN, for the African Cup of Na­tions fi­nals and the event is spon­sored by the global telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany dis­guised as a piece of fruit, so, of­fi­cially, the Or­ange CAN it is.

Some­how the likes of Malawi, Zam­bia and Mozam­bique man­aged to qual­ify but we didn’t and the full con­se­quences of that ab­ject fail­ure will be­come clear over the next three weeks as the top African na­tions will be in blaz­ing action, not only com­pet­ing for the con­ti­nen­tal crown but also sharp­en­ing them­selves for the World Cup, while Car­los Al­berto Par­reira tries to make do with a train­ing camp in Dur­ban.

Among the many galling things said by Ray­mond Hack, whose de­par­ture as chief exec- utive of Safa this week was widely un­la­mented, the worst was his glib claim that Bafana Bafana would not suf­fer from their ab­sence from this tour­na­ment.

Tell that to Par­reira who can­not call on his over­seas-based play­ers for the camp and will find it im­pos­si­ble to repli­cate mark­ing Di­dier Drogba or try­ing to shield the ball from Michael Essien in play-play ses­sions.

At least the Bafana coach­ing staff will get the South African play­ers fit, even if the man who needs con­di­tion­ing work the most, Benni the Boep, won’t be there.

McCarthy has looked en­cour­ag­ingly sharp of late for Black­burn, prob­a­bly be­cause he’s seek­ing a trans­fer – his ca­reer is lit­tered with stel­lar bursts when there’s money to be made or a con­tract to be gained, in­evitably fol­lowed by a slow fade.

The only South Africans re­ally cel­e­brat­ing our in­abil­ity to qual­ify will be me­dia ex­ec­u­tives who have been spared the pro­hib­i­tive cost of send­ing hordes of staff to Luanda, which is the most ex­pen­sive city in the world even though it is sur­rounded by ab­ject squalor.

I sup­pose there is an­other up­side in that it takes the strain out of Af­con for us.

The last two tour­na­ments were painful to watch as the side stum­bled to­wards early ex­its (re­mem­ber Ted Dim­itru’s point­less and goal­less ex­pe­di­tion to Egypt in 2006?), but this time we can re­lax and rel­ish the thun­der­ous con­test.

In­evitably the tour­na­ment has an off-Broad­way air about it – a trial run for the big show in June.

The African qual­i­fiers for the World Cup are an awe­some, tough bunch – Nige­ria, Al­ge­ria, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Cameroon – and they will all be knock­ing heads in An­gola.

I don’t buy any great phys­i­cal ad­van­tage for th­ese teams when they fi­nally get to South Africa – the Highveld, Cape Town and PE in mid-win­ter are scarcely typ­i­cal African con­di­tions – but if any of them get on a real roll here they will find fab­u­lous sup­port.

As for the Or­ange CAN, my tip is Sa­muel Eto’o’s Cameroon who have a Song to sing – Rigobert Song is play­ing in his eighth Af­con fi­nals, which is a stag­ger­ing record.

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