AFCON 2015 loses more fans by throwing a lot to decide Group D runners spot

January 29, 2015 7:47 pm0 comments by:

Right from a young age, I have always looked forward to watching African Cup of Nations Competitions. It provided a lot of dynamic plays, original and exciting moments on the pitch. Lately, I have been losing interest as the matches become more boring and resemble regularly weekly professional league matches. I am aware that African national teams are trying to bridge the gap between the national teams and other continent rivals. They have to try a different approach in order to be successfully in the World cup competitions.
However, I feel the direction taken to improve our displays in the FIFA World Cup competitions is at the risk of losing its core fans. We are no longer watching football matches with lots of X factor displays. The majority of matches in the current AFCON 2015 ended in draw or one team winning with a slim margin. I am aware there has been improvement from the so called smaller nations in the past few years. This makes it is difficult for the previous stronger football nations dominating qualifiers and competitions. However, I feel the bigger teams have not actually improved at the same rate as the smaller nations. The football matches at the previous AFCON tournament were also devoid of exciting spectacles. It would be interesting to know the viewing figures for the AFCON matches in the past few years.
Football is a popular sports and whilst the current trend is that a lot of people still watch it on a daily basis. I am of the view that there are a lot of fans getting tired of watching recent matches religiously. This is because the X factor is missing in most of these matches. Yesterday, Mali and Guinea played the last Group D match in AFCON 2015. Both nations were fully aware that a draw will mean that their destiny is down to a throw of lots.

Throwing lotsThey still ended up playing a draw and moaned about the rule. Recently, I found myself watching a match and noticing similar sequence of events in majority of the game.
The lack of excitement in African football is due to various reasons. One of the main reason is the demise of top strikers or world class offensive midfielders. Modern football is based on controlling middle of the pitch and counter attack. The downside of possession football is to replace the second striker with a midfielder. We watch a lot of league football with most of the top teams striving to keep higher percentage of possession and hope to take one or two chances. Teams are being set up to dominate with quick passing game and clinical scoring. This results in little or no goal mouth action to look forward.
It pains me to notice African national teams following this trend and whilst there is a benefit to keeping possession. It restricts the instinctive play that is key component of African football. This is why African national teams find it difficult to be successful in World Cup competitions. It is difficult to plan for unexpected individual plays.
The current highest goal scorers in AFCON 2015 have 2 goals. This is after completion of 24 group matches and 45 goals scored by all the teams. It is indication of the direction of football that most of the games have ended in 1-1 draw or 2-1 score line. There is an argument that the score line shows the small difference in overall ability of the 16 national teams. In my view, it shows the lack of quality prolific strikers or offensive players in all the teams. There is a batch of 32 players who have scored in the competition and majority are mid fielders.
It is dishearten to watch African national team striving to imitate exactly other continent national teams. Thus losing the creativity and unique identity that makes African football more interesting and exciting for viewers.
The main reason why professional clubs across the world scout for African players is because of the creativity and instinctive play. The difference between the professional clubs at the top leagues is due to inclusion of players, who have strength, passion and creativity in their play.
I would be chuffed if the national managers combine the stability element from European national teams like Germany with the existing creativity skill. This combination would result to exciting matches and also improve the chances of winning a silverware in the world cup.
The alternative is to continue playing a European club style of football and rely on throwing lots to decide who advances to the next stage.
Obioma Aguocha
Self-Publisher: The Guide to being the Best (Paperback) 2007 &Sporting Success Simplified (E-book) 2012

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