This decision may be taken out of my hands depending on employment circumstances, but I am unsure whether or not to write regular reflection pieces about the upcoming African Cup of Nations as I have done so with other tournaments, the Women’s World Cup being the highlight of my blogging career thus far. I am hoping to write a lot this summer about the Euro and possibly the Olympics. It is easy to get overextended writing about football so much though; because of the Women’s World Cup and the earlier CONCACAF Gold Cup, I had no energy to regularly write about the far less interesting Copa America.
The African Cup of Nations presents a unique challenge because, the tournament itself has become kind of dreary. The reason for this is because the African international game has fallen in quality rather than improved. Witness the performance of the (non-Ghana) African nations at the 2010 World Cup; it hasn’t gotten better in the year and half since. The reasons for this are fascinating, varied, and pitiful, and Jonathan Wilson explores them in a brilliant article.
Wilson does not say this, but I would also add that one of the reasons AfCoN is so tedious is because it comes around far too often. Every two years is too much, and AfCoN comes right in the middle of the club season, which makes the tournament more distraction than attraction. That it also occurs during World Cup years (which it’s not supposed to, but Sepp Blatter needs African votes so FIFA won’t say boo), merely cheapens and overshadows the African tournament–as does CAF’s insistence to hold a continent-wide tournament in non AfCoN years that is only open to players who play in their own national league.
Because of mismanagement and corruption from CAF and the national FA’s, African football has regressed rather than progressed over the years. Sure it still produces some of the greatest players in the world, but those players seem to feel that national team duty is more burden than honor, and quite frankly, given who can blame them? Two of the nations that should be potential champions every tournament, South Africa and Nigeria, failed to even qualify this time. African FAs do not even try to develop their own coaches, choosing instead washed-up Europeans or Brazilians. For that reason there is little national style because there is a tremendous disconnect between national tradition and national team. Is it any wonder that the Asian teams are overtaking their African counterparts in the international game? (Wilson was probably too polite to say that in his article but he has noted that before.)
I will, of course, be following the tournament whether I write about it or not. I am very curious to see what happens. There are a lot of stories to follow. Can Ghana live up to its promise and heritage? Will the Ivory Coast’s Golden Generation finally win a tournament or disintegrate with nothing to show for all its talent? Can Zambia overcome its tragic history? Can Libya or Tunisia do anything of symbolic importance in the wake of the Arab Spring (and Egypt’s qualification implosion)? Should the brutal regime of Equatorial Guinea even be allowed to host a tournament? Can newcomers Botswana impress like they did in the qualification round?
These questions and more will be on my mind as I watch the tournament. I am just not sure that the football will give me enough of an impetus to write about the answers (or lack thereof) that I discover. In the meantime, go Botswana!
[Update: The job situation is such that I will not be able to spend copious amounts of time thinking about AfCoN. I will try to post from time to time, but it will not be every day. Sorry, or you're welcome depending on how you feel about my blogging.]