The Orange CAN could be fun to watch without the pain of watching Bafana
Where there’s a 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.