The Excitement Of AFCON

The draw had glitz, glamour, colour. There were speeches and promises from the politicians. And it was great to see legends of the game…taking part and talking up the chances of their respective countries.

It had been long in coming and sometimes felt like it was never going to happen. Even up until as recently as a few weeks ago, there was talk about Cameroon being stripped of the hosting rights of the games because they won’t be ready. There was talk of a scheme from the upper corridors and how they want to embarrass Cameroon as a nation in taking the hosting from the Central African nation.

Then there was COVID. The seemingly ever present COVID that struck us globally in January 2020, put paid to many events, caused cancellations postponements and rescheduling. It cost lives – many lives. It cost businesses, economies collapsed and sport suffered. It is why AFCON 2021 will actually be played in 2022, and it feels normal.

But with restrictions and conditions, we were able to complete the qualifying program for the AFCON, we were able to organise the draw in Cameroon, and here we go…..the stage is about set.

And finally, it was all about football. And the draw threw up juicy encounters. Finally we will see Africa at its best – hopefully.

The second time we will have a 24-nation AFCON, and for sure it won’t go to form.

No group will be easily won. No team could go there and say they got an ‘easy draw’. There is a derby in each group, a juicy tie or two.

But… being a 24-team tournament means that technically, you can still come third in your group and still go all the way.

It will be exciting, intriguing, and it will be about the teams, the federations and the coaches who have what it takes to be winners.

As for yours truly, I’ve got my work cut out. Won’t be easy. Learning more about the likes of Sudan and Guinea Bissau will be quite a load of fun. Can’t wait to relive the ups and downs of Egypt 2019, hoping there will be even more ups than downs this time – learning from the mistakes of the past and all.

But hey-ho, it will be a spectacular January/February 2022 – one in which new legends will emerge, previously potential legends will come into their own, and coaches, yes coaches will strive to make a name for themselves.

And we will be here – to take part, to be a part of it while also following and reporting on it at the same time.

Note some key games

Group ACameroon v Cape Verde (Cape Verde shocked the world, beating the Cameroonians 3-1 not too long ago)

Group BSenegal v Guinea (this is a derby between two closely matched Francophone West African nations who play a similar pattern)

Group C Morocco v Ghana (Morocco is playing some real good football these days with some choice players but Ghana never lies down to North African opposition)

Group DNigeria v Egypt (Repeat of the opening game of Nigeria’s campaign in Angola 2010 which Egypt won 3-1. Memorable. Another explosive one awaits).

Group EAlgeria v Cote d’Ivoire (Current champions will see the Ivorians as the biggest threat to their long unbeaten streak which might still be in place by January 2022).

Group FTunisia v Mali (The Tunisians are improving but we can not discard the progress of Mali in African football. They have built from the youth level and the results will probably manifest in Cameroon and will give any team a run for their money).

Share with me your thoughts on who might eventually take the title. Will be interesting to know what your thoughts are at this stage, and then revisit it again nearer the time.

Written from a neutral place, by Tunde