It has taken me time to finally sit down and write this article a week since AFCON 2017 closed in Gabon and players are settling back with their clubs. There was something missing in this year’s African premier soccer show. I am yet to put a finger on it because like it happens in many periodic shows, the problem began long before it manifests.
Let me start from our next door neighbours. Uganda went to Gabon after a 39 year absence from AFCON; they showed up, saw but did not conquer. They gave a good account of themselves though reports coming out of Uganda are that players saw the qualification as an end in itself. Their dream was for better allowances and appearance fee. Immediately the squad was cut down and names forwarded to CAF, The Monitor reported that the players were taking no prisoners from FUFA and the government.
On the other side, eventual winners Cameroon won the title despite their run in with their federation over allowances. It is the coach who recorded their displeasure with the lack of respect shown by the officials but still insisted that his players will give their best. The coach had assembled a second rate squad after seven top players turned down call ups to the national team. They came from behind to beat seven time winners Egypt 2-1 in the finals.
There was nothing outstanding about this year’s AFCON. Even as the MVP Christian Basogog from Cameroon stood out, there was something missing about his play. He terrorized defenders but may be the reason he won the gong was because he played more matches than most of the players. Fabrice Ondoa was outstanding in Cameroon goal just as 44 year old Essam El Haddarydefied age to get Egypt to the final, but still- something was missing. The golden boot went to DRC’s Junior Kabananga who scored three, yes three goals.
DRC players spiced up the show with their goal celebration dance fimbu(whip). Oh yes, this is Africa and we love to dance. Fimbu might be the best thing to happen to AFCON since Roger Milla’s corner flag dance in the 1990 tournament. Africa is about courage, heroism and space to enjoy and have fun. Even Ghana players who are known to flower the show looked like they couldn’t wait for the show to come to a close.
The problem might be the straight jacket box that European football puts our players in. It curtails their creativity and expression. Only four out of sixteen coaches were African and none of them got their teams to the semi-finals. As I write this, my finger is pointing to lack Africa in the Africa Cup of Nations. This is the reason one week after the show; there is nothing out of the ordinary to talk about.
Meanwhile the Public Relations office at the CAF office in Cairo is sleeping on the job in regards to publicizing the tournament before it kicks off. I still can decide if I should sprinkle sugar, salt or pepper on this story.