On Saturday, January 19th 2013, the best of African football will converge on South Africa to compete in the African Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Zambia, the holders, are in a tough group alongside perennial outsiders Nigeria, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. While the hosts, Bafana Bafana, will be kicking off the action in Johannesburg against Cape Verde.
The Linc spoke to the one of the BBC’s World Sport correspondents Farayi Mungazi, who will be covering the competition.
With the tournament being held in the middle of the season, it seems peculiar to hold the competition in January and February. Mungazi explained: “Africa’s weather patterns make it impossible to hold it any other time of the year – unlike Europe or South America.
“Africa doesn’t have one weather pattern. For instance, when it’s winter in North Africa, it’s summer in southern Africa and raining in East Africa. So January and February is the only time slot available, otherwise the tournament would have to be held in one region.”
Ivory Coast go into the tournament as strong favourites, with a team bristling with big names including Manchester City brothers, Yaya and Kolo Toure, 2012 Champions League hero Didier Drogba, Arsenal flop Gervinho and Wigan frontman Arouna Kone among others.
However, the White Elephant’s strong squad cannot guarantee them victory. Especially in the wake of 2012’s AFCON, where Zambia ran out winners: “Zambia have no big name stars in their line-up. They’ve also been together for more than 6 years, starting together in the Zambia under-20 team.”
What has been dominating the UK media in the run-up to the contest has been the withdrawals and controversies surrounding squad call-up’s from British teams, leading people to wonder why British clubs seem to marginalise the AFCON.
Mungazi said: “That’s why no African delegate supported England’s World Cup bid. There is a feeling in Africa that England looks down on the competition, that old colonial attitude, if you know what I mean.”
One team who have been attracting a large amount of headlines in the world media are Nigeria, but Mungazi maintains that this is just business as usual for the Black Stars: “Nigeria always have these issues whenever a big tournament comes around – team selections and arguments over bonuses.”
The tournament then comes at a difficult time for British teams, with the transfer window closing while the tournament takes place. Departures to AFCON 2013 could prove vital to teams title ambitions, however Mungazi is quick to remind football fans what this tournament is all about: “It’s a showcase of the best African football talent!”Tweet