The Continent’s Biennial Football Showdown Returns
The 2014 African Nations Championship (Sometimes referred to as CHAN) is underway in South Africa, a country that overtook the right to host the event from Libya because of the previous turmoil in the country. The football championship, which was officially opened on January 11, 2014, is now being fought between 16 teams in three cities: Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Polokwane. The 65,000-seater Cape Town Stadium will host the championship on February 1, 2014.
CHAN: How the game started
“I hope the African Cup of Nations is won by an African team this time.” This was a quotation from a speech by South African president Jacob Zuma that went viral on social media platforms a year ago, a day before the AFCON 2013 football tournament officially opened in Johannesburg. Even though ‘Zuma’s blunder’ was found to be a funny one, considering the fact that AFCON is the football championship of Africa and is organized by the confederation of African Football (CAF), making the tournament “African” has been a real issue for years now.
When AFCON was first held in 1957, it was thought to be an opportunity for the African footballers to compete at the international level. In the last decade though, the tournament became hugely dominated by star players who normally play in Europe or Asia. For instance, the Ivorian squad, at AFCON 2012, was organized by players from leagues in eight non-African countries. From the 368 players named by the 16 participating teams in the tournament, only 129 (35pct) of them play in leagues from the country they were born in, according to the CAF statistics from AFCON 2012. To address this issue, CAF devised a new competition called the ‘African Championship of Nations (CHAN)’ in September 2007.
“We strive to give to the local African players the possibility to showcase their talents and abilities, ” said Issa Hayatou, the CAF president,. The first CHAN championship was held in 2009 between eight countries and was won by the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Sudan 16 nations participated. In the 2014 tournament, the continent’s football power houses, like; Nigeria, Mali and South Africa competed in the tournament with their home based footballers.
One problem is that it has not really been financially rewarding to win an African championship. The team that wins the continent’s biggest football tournament, African Cup of Nations, gets only USD two million. “If you win the UEFA Champions league you get over USD 100 million how can you give a country USD two million, CAF should do something about it,” exclaimed former Black Stars defender Sammy Osei Kuffour. Yet it does not seem to be getting better with CHAN. The Daily Monitor of Uganda reports that only USD 750,000 will go to the winner.
Those teams finishing at the bottom of their group will earn a minimum of USD 100,000. EBR
2nd Year • January 2014 • No 11