Events on the pitch should dictate whether AFCON 2015 becomes a success

January 15, 2015 11:37 pm0 comments by:

AFCON 2015Life imitates art in some many ways than one. We watch films and drama with a sporting theme. A film with a sporting theme tends to be successful, if the story is about achieving success in the midst of difficulties. Whilst, dramas and films producers might elaborate the difficulties a bit more to make it more interesting for viewers. The main story  is still based on a true sporting event. The AFCON 2015 starts on January 17 in Equatorial Guinea but the possible  success of the event has been hit badly by issues  with facilities,accommodation and health concerns . The catalyst is the original host country Morocco decision not to continue with its hosting duties late last year. It meant CAF had to find a nation willing to become host nation on short notice.This has the making for a sporting movie in future with hopefully a fairy tale success.
A movie based on a sporting event with a late change in the host nation will not really guarantee box office success or even worth making. It would be a different case, if the evenst on the pitch was exciting and gripping for fans, media and analysts to watch. For instance the football matches are competitive and a batch of international stars are born. I am wishful thinking with the idea that AFCON 2015 will produce a batch of international stars. Past AFCON events have just about enhanced previous known talents. However,the early signs based on qualifiers and warm up matches indicate that the group matches would be fairly even. The question is whether the unknown players can rise to the occasion and provide entertainment on the pitch amidst the chaos outside it.

You might ask why doubt the player’s ability before a ball has been kicked in anger. The simple answer is that the statistics going into the tournament does to indicate excitement. There are no débutantes  and 9 teams in the main draw have won the event. Last tournament only produced two players Jonathan Pitroipa (Burkina Faso) and Emmanuel Emenike (Nigeria). Both players were playing away from the continent prior to the tournament.The  only positive sign is that majority of the teams have new coaches or in transition stage.

I am aware of the argument that football is not science but modern football is heavily influenced with analysis. African national team coaches rely on analytic reports to pick their squad. They are forced to rely on reports because majority of their squad players do not get a lot of club games or are playing at lower leagues across the world.
We have also noticed an increase in African nations playing a European style, high tempo and defending high up the field. It means that home based players in squad have to curtail their creative instinct and adapt to new system within a short period. This leads to tournament matches becoming fairly even and boring to watch. Teams are experts at not conceding possession and hoping for one or two chances to score goals. I believe that this philosophy does not show case the full potential of African players.
Last AFCON 2013, the best moments of excitement and brilliance were in matches when both teams played open attacking football. I know it meant the usual terrible defending or last ditch tackles. However, we saw a few world known players get the space to showcase their creative skill on matches. The disappointment for me was that it was not evident in most of the matches. I assume that the fact that world cup 2014 was imminent might have impacted on their overall performance. It begs the question why did  players such as Jonathan Pitroipa(Burkina Faso) Seydou Keita (Mail),Sunday Mba (Nigeria) perform better.They were plying their trade  at less high profile professional clubs but kept their performance and energy throughout the tournament. These unheralded players were the main reason for creating the exciting moments in the tournament.This is despite the bad state of the football grounds.

It is 2015 and another AFCON is about to start and we do not really have a lot of potentials to look for. The big stars in the last event are now a year older and in some cases close to international retirement. Fans cannot expect the older big stars to produce their best in this tournament. Especially, as most of them have had a tough 18 months and crucial clubs games ahead. There was AFCON 2013 followed by World Cup in Brazil and then it is back to another tournament. In between the 3 tournaments, they have to play for their various clubs. This is the main reason for increase this year in the drop outs due to injury.
The stage is set for unheralded players becoming the stars of AFCON 2015. They have to bring the passion, energy and creative play to the tournament. These players have not been fine turned to curtail their individuality or play possession football. We need them to shine and bring back the excitement to the tournament. it is fairly safe to say the success of the tournament is not going to be due to the facilities, media or accommodation.
My worry is whether the events outside the pitch and the ground itself will affect the unheralded players to play their best.It is well documented the difficult that past organisers have experienced to get the media facilities, accommodation and stadium grounds to a reasonable state. This year’s event organisers Equatorial Guinea had only 2 months to make plans and install the required facilities.
I am sure the intent would be there to provide the best facilities. It is up the unheralded players doted across the world to showcase their talent.

Obioma Aguocha
Self Publisher:The Guide to being the Best(Paperback) 2007 &Sporting Success Simplified (E-book) 2012

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