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Cup of Nations clash creates friction

Piers Edwards | 12:13 UK time, Thursday, 24 December 2009

If there's one Christmas present all football managers across Europe would probably want, it's undoubtedly a change in the scheduling of the African Cup of Nations.

Every other year, the club-versus-country row routinely dominates the back pages as Africa's premier sports event approaches and clubs lose key players for around a month.

And the row seems to grow with every passing year as Africans become increasingly pivotal in world football.

Premier League leaders Chelsea, for example, must continue their title chase without Didier Drogba, John Mikel Obi, Michael Essien and Salomon Kalou, while Portsmouth's relegation battle is not helped by losing a similar tally of players.

The story is the same across Europe. The French and Belgian leagues are always hardest hit, while Spanish leaders Barcelona must do without midfield duo Yaya Toure and Seydou Keita. In Serie A, table-topping Inter Milan must do without Samuel Eto'o, but not, surprisingly, Sulley Muntari.

The Cup of Nations storm is such that even the normally placid Roy Hodgson has been caught up this year. The Fulham coach angered Ghana's FA by labelling their request for John Pantsil's release - they wanted him to leave on Sunday, 27 December - as "disrespectful".

Hodgson's comments are not without irony since this is the day that players must be released anyway according to world giverning body Fifa. The normally mild-mannered former Switzerland boss clearly cannot see past Monday's West London derby against Chelsea.

In any case, sympathy is limited, for the oft-repeated cry has been, quite rightly, that Hodgson and other coaches knew they would lose their African players every other January when they signed them.

Chelsea's Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba
Chelsea will be without the services of stars Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba

Some players even make it crystal clear they will not join a club unless they can be released for the tournament.

"An important English club once offered me a good financial and sporting deal, but I was honest and explained my commitments with Cameroon, especially the Nations Cup, so I lost the deal," Patrick Mboma recently told the BBC. "But I have no regrets. I was a Cameroonian before becoming a footballer, so my country comes first."

On the face of it, it does border on the insane to stage a continental finals during the European season - even if it made little difference prior to the mass influx of Africans in the 1990s.

Although it now affects some of the world's top clubs, the Confederation of African Football (Caf) still dismisses all requests to change the timing, always claiming that Africa's weather in June is too severe, whether through excessive heat or unplayable rain.

But this is not the most convincing argument, especially considering that the prospect of hosting the World Cup in June 2010 sparked a bidding frenzy across the continent. Many matches at next year's finals will also be notable for the cold, but no one is saying the tournament shouldn't be held because it's the South African winter.

Furthermore, Africa staged vital Cup of Nations and World Cup qualifying matches in June 2008 and June 2009, when more than 100 games were played in 47 countries.
I can't, off the top of my head, recall too many complaints about the conditions then.
So should Caf do the unexpected one day and reschedule the competition to June, as repeatedly requested by the likes of Eto'o, Essien and El Hadji Diouf, the year would also have to change.

It would have to be an odd year - just like it was when the tournament first began in 1957 - to avoid clashing with the World Cup and, to a lesser extent, the Olympics and European Championships, too.

This would surely benefit Africa, as the Cup of Nations could snag an uncrowded slot in the football calendar, thus increasing worldwide attention.

It would also silence European calls for the event to be staged quadrennially, which are clearly the result of vested interests. Did the off-season Copa America receive such vociferous criticism when it was regularly played every two years?

It's important to see things from an African point of view. Staging the competition biennially means the infrastructure in one of the continent's 53 nations improves cyclically - as seen most clearly by Mali 2002 and Burkina Faso 1998.

In addition, the Cup of Nations largely keeps Caf afloat since it provides around 80% of the African body's revenue.

Yet with Caf showing little political will to pander to European calls and move the finals, perhaps the opinions of Abedi Pele may engineer the first step towards a different scheduling.

The Ghanaian advances one of the more relevant arguments for moving the tournament, highlighting the difficulty of performing at a World Cup for Africa's finalists after a challenging European season, during which they've also had to contest a Cup of Nations. Indeed, the Cup of Nations is the only continental finals to be regularly played in a World Cup year.

Pele's view is shared by former France coach Gerard Houllier, but if the three-time African Footballer of the Year is to get his way, all African teams would seemingly need to fail in South Africa, save for the hosts themselves who won't be in Angola.

The problem is that Pele has been telling all and sundry that the continent can lift the World Cup next July.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Clubs know the situation when they buy African players. Why should the CAF bow to European millionaires? Sorry, no sympathy here at all.

  • Comment number 2.

    We all know that if the ACN is moved to the summer months there will be some consequences. More players will be injured, the TV market many not have any appetite for the tournament and when people talk about it been staged every four years (Would that be the odd year when there is no FIFA World Cup, Euro Championship or the COPA Sud America).

    This tournament may not suit the premiership clubs and their selfish interests but all managers know the deal they get when signing African players.

    I believe I speak for many when I tell you that it is irritating and annoying when imps like Avram Grant and Roy Hodgson open their mouths without thinking and highlight their ignorance.

    Sports development and pride is something we Africans take seriously, something these managers and those with vested(selfish) interests may never understand.

    The timing ain't perfect but we love it as it is.

    Thanks !!!!

  • Comment number 3.

    Its the same old argument every two years. We hear the comments about "They're our players and we pay their wages" blah blah blah. The simple answer is the clubs don't have to pay their wages if they don't buy them in the first place. Its as simple as that. I felt sympathy for Spurs a few years back when Kanoute switched allegience from France to Mali and sympathy for Everton when Anchiebe (who grew up in Liverpool and was a youth team player)decided to play for his country of birth, Nigeria.

    But if you buy an African player, then you know the baggage that goes with it. At the end of the day, there's nothing in FIFA/UEFA rules that say you have to buy an African player. This is Top Level football, not UNICEF.

    So the European clubs do have a choice. But I can hardly see for example Chelsea saying they're going sell Essien or Drogba because they play in the Cup of Nations every two years. Because the two of them aren't exactly going to find it hard to find another club.

  • Comment number 4.

    Every two years we have this same discussion... And every two years the answer is the same... The ACN is not changing its dates, its been played in January since 1957.
    I'm shocked we still think we can re-organise the global calender to suit our needs. Im a Chelsea fan and if anything we will be hit the hardest with the upcoming ACN but its a cost Im willing to live with.

    Think of it in a different light. Football is more than winning and losing. It can help bring people and their nations out of poverty and create unity in countries where guns are more readily available then water.

    Africa needs football and infrastructure development throughout the continent and the ACN allows for this by holding it regularly every two years and holding the competition in January so as to allow the WHOLE of Africa a chance to host what is still the oldest continental international football tournament after the Copa America...

    And lets be realistic... Most players miss a minimal ammount of league games. If released by Jan 1st (which in my pov is ample time for teams to hold pre-tournament training) players will miss the third round of FA cup games in addition to one or two league games unless their team go all the way to the final

  • Comment number 5.

    I like the idea of every four years and you still play it in January. The players need rest and especially when it falls in the same year as the world cup. For a country like Ghana what is more important the World Cup or Cup of Nations. On top of that we discipline players because they chose not to play in a meaningful international game which I might say always result in a serious injury. Come on people do you really think these players really care to play when in the back of their minds they don't and are afraid to say it because of the backlash they get in the various countries. I will end by saying we need to change for the better of the players because they are the ones that play not us.

  • Comment number 6.

    To hell with these Euro Clubs,they certainly lnow the position of things before going for African players even as this issue has become a bi-annual ritual.CAF should not change its calendar simply because Euro teams are not down with it.
    The period canvassed for by these Euro teams falls during the rainny season in Africa-a development that makes it Impossible to play football.

    All other leagues go on Winter break but for the EPL who also Ironically has more scheduled competitions and loaded calendar than any other country in Europe,yet despite the call by players and managers that the EPL schedule is too much burden on the players and by extension negatively affects the performance on England national teams no changes were effected.All plea has fallen on deaf ears but just for asking they want others to bow to their demands.

    AFCON will continue to be played in Jan take it or leave it.

  • Comment number 7.

    " On the face of it, it does border on the insane to stage a continental finals during the European season"

    WOW! I'm completely dumbfounded by this sentence. How dare "insane" Africans have a life during the European season? Who told them they could do whatever they wanted whenever it was convenient for them and following a 62 year old tradition without European permission? Don't they know the world revolves around Europe?

    Moreover, Mr. Edwards, do you mind making a clarification on the following sentence too?

    "It would have to be an odd year - just like it was when the tournament first began in 1957 - to avoid clashing with the World Cup and, to a lesser extent, the Olympics and European Championships, too."

    Avoid the European championships. I sincerely fail to see why the Euros make any difference. According to you, then, for the next four years the ACN and the Copa America should only be staged in 2011 or 2013 since our Eurocentric world does not have time for them in 2010, 2012, or 2014.

    Believe it or not, people outside Europe do have lives, hopes, and dreams. And, as incredible as this may sound to you, they do not completely revolve around Europe's schedule.

    Lastly, and I'm not sure you know about this, but the players DO make money while playing for their countris in the ACN. It's their job and they are proud and happy to do it while representing their countries. If they wanted to rest or thought it was too much, they could simply say "no thanks" when called.

  • Comment number 8.

    Amazing how this comes up all the time when our African Players are getting ready to go showcase their skills back home. I'm very proud of them all on the high regard they rank this tournament.

    I think all sides have a good arguement, I strongly support the option of moving the tournament to an odd year, giving the players a much better preparation for the World Cup the following year. This will also provide much broader coverage of the tournament, being the only soccer during that time, it could also remain in January when the weather is more conduisive.

    Wish you all a merry xmass and can't wait for the tournament to start, this is our year...Cameroon shall win the African Cup of Nations, as well as the World Cup, Africa has the home field advantage this time around so this World Cup better be ours...

    Go Gunners

  • Comment number 9.

    As mentioned, I think this recurring argument has been a dead-rubber for some time now. Firstly, Post No.1 is completely spot on; unless completely foolhardy, European clubs - I hope - buy African players based on this very premise. So, the prerogative lies with the European clubs to either continue their buying trend or to simply cease purchasing African footballers.

    Furthermore, has anyone ever considered the plight of any African clubs? Some leagues may still be ongoing in January; I do not recall having heard African clubs complain about the fact that some of their key players would have to be sacrificed. Yes, I am aware that only a miniscule proportion of Africa-based players now represent their national teams. But the argument still holds.

    Let us also not forget that the ACN is older than the Euros, having begun in 1957 (the Euros began in 1960). Twenty-seven ACN tournaments have taken place over thirteen Euros. From the perspective of postcolonialism, Europe needs to understand and respect this fact - rather than casually override it, as is the habitual case.

  • Comment number 10.

    Best thing is not to sign any player from Africa if they have to go in January for the Cup. Money talks they will come and forget representing their countries.

  • Comment number 11.

    Bowler, don’t be a fool. Do you think this is about money? Representing our countries is more valuable than the European so call buying power. One should not forget that whatever Europe has today it owes it to Africa. We have been robbed for many centuries by Europe. When hear coaches like Avran Grant talk rubbish it makes me laugh. Why should we change the ACN schedule to accommodate European leagues? The last time I checked slavery and colonization were over. Without us European economies are nothing, and without us European leagues are nothing too. If you don't believe me, please ask France the seventh African team at the World Cup.

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    Firstly I would like the African Tournament to move to an odd year, for no other reason than to have one major tournament on each year. As much as I am filled with excitment right now that I get to enjoy the ACN and then only have months to wait for the WC, I have to remind myself of the boring years which include no major world tournaments.

    If each of the major world tournaments happened once every four years, we could just simply cycle through them (World Cup one year, African the next, then Euro, then SA.. and so on).

    As for the ACN being every two or four years, for me it doesn't matter. There can be nothing against it dropping on the same year as a European or South American tournament, as the same players are not involved.. however it does seem daft to have ACN falling on the same year as a World Cup, it can give advantages (more time to train together and more match time) and disadvantages (injuries, fatigue) in the run up to the World Cup

    Tournaments are great fun, the pinacle of football in my opinion, and I would choose to base all the leagues of the world around the tournaments, and not the other way around.

    Africa can choose to host it's tournament whenever the hell it likes, just as Europe and South America can. It's their Tournament, one that I plan to watch and enjoy.

  • Comment number 14.

    I totally agree with br_registered! I understand culbs have spent a lot of money on these guys, but come on others (countries) have to have their share of the pie as well. SO NO NO NO!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 15.

    Hey Nick, your agrument is a good, but I belive the question is,' Should the African Cup of Nations be rescheduled to placate European clubs?'

  • Comment number 16.

    Glen, thank you. I see no reason to even debate that. It's planning has jack to do with Europe. And I sort of answered that in the final paragraph of my first post.

  • Comment number 17.

    Given the importance of African players in Europe, the Europeans leagues should consider a winter break in January (at least in the years of the African Cup), rather than asking the Africans to change the timing of the African Cup.

  • Comment number 18.

    Lets give a break to this, for, it is a non-event to me.If the European feel that there is a problem with the timing of the AFCON, they should think of re-schedulling thir program to suit ours.we do not have a problem, they do so they should think of adjusting their time table after every two years as well, and stop complaining.

  • Comment number 19.

    10. At 5:55pm on 24 Dec 2009, 31bowler wrote:
    Best thing is not to sign any player from Africa if they have to go in January for the Cup. Money talks they will come and forget representing their countries.
    xenophobic piffle!Contrary to popular belief there are other leagues outside the almighty Premier League so African footballers will always have a place in Europe.The ACON is in January and has been like that for a fair few years.So i think managers should be used to it by now so this bi annual whingefest has gotta stop sooner rather than later!

  • Comment number 20.

    Well it's been long overdue and that some proper action needs to be taken to reschedule the Nations cup to be played in the summer months when the Euro leagues are over or every four years.This is to the benefit of all the african stars in Europe.The situation is causing some European teams not to sign african players.I don't care if it's a tradition,traditions can be changed because we are in the 21st century and everything is moving forward.Every other major continental tournament is played when the leagues are over so why not the Nations Cup?Why Why Why?Another issue is that because the Nations cup is played the same time as the Euro leagues not too much attention is even payed to it,plus CAF is not able to make much money from the tournament from marketing and selling the product to all the potential European and world audience.This is a simple and common sense issue,it's also about time that we see some changes in CAF.Issa Hayatou and his team have been there for too long and we need some fresh faces with fresh ideas to promote,improve and market African football better.

  • Comment number 21.

    Papa Sam, you're a tad selfish, no?

    You are also totally wrong on your point "the Nations cup is played the same time as the Euro leagues not too much attention is even payed to it"..

    At the last ACN the average audience for each match was around 150M World-Wide.

    And since when was hosting tounaments all about marketing and selling their 'product' to Europe (and the rest of the world)?
    Africa can create it's own 'products' in whatever way it feels best, and hell they can play a tournament for pride too if they like. Things in this world don't have to be played towards capitalism at every turn..

    Europe might be at the centre of your mindset, but thankfully, it's not in the centre of everybody's.

  • Comment number 22.

    EPL clubs buy African players because they are plentiful and cheaper than comparable home-grown talent. As such, I have no sympathy with cynics like Grant and Hodgson. I bet that if clubs bought fewer African players, then the timing of the African Cup of Nations would be far less contentious.

  • Comment number 23.

    (First, I have a yawn) and then, here we go again, with every Tom, Dick and Harry telling AFRICA how it should run its own affairs. Even Plymouth Argyle (Yes, you heard me, Plymouth (pause) Argyle) is at it. Before you know it, even my non-league-Sunday-football team mates would be berating Africa on account of me saying: “Na-a, not this week, mates” -- to watch live African Cup of Nations.

    Ports-mouth big-shot Mr whatsit forgot that slavery has been abolished so many years ago (and there is even an African-American President at the WH, there!). He forgot that these players were not adopted from birth by the European clubs; they have parents and extended families that joined hands to raise them and help in their upbringing before they became footballers; and playing for their countries or countries of their parents is one way of showing their appreciation and thanks to country and family. Second to fighting for one's own country is playing the beautiful game for one's own country.

    We hear exaggerated claims of how the departure of few African players would bring the European leagues to its knees, and yet, only a few of these players play regularly -- the rest are regular 'bench-warmers'. It is VERY insulting to Africa; Africa do not exist to serve Europe.

    I, therefore, call on the CAF to tell FIFA to tell EFA to tell the EFL to 'shut it' or else forget about England 2018 World Cup Bid.

    But given the number of cancellations of games due to the bad weather, one wonders why the EFA even bother to allow play in the peak winter periods. It would be better for the EFA to give the league a winter break -- as they [do] in other European countries. What are we trying to prove to the rest of the world, any way? That our footballers have character and that they are not afraid of harsh weather? Beside winter games are horrible to watch -- the levels of skills drop dramatically.

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    I think its completely ridiculous, arrogant and high handed for ANY European league to complain about the African Nations cup,
    1. firstly you KNOW what you were getting into when you bought the African players
    2. seconldy am willing to bet that Avram Grant and co have never witnessed an African rain storm that occurs during the period europeans call summer, footie is completely unplayable during such storms, not like the piddly diddly light showers of london
    3. for heavens sake its only a four week period (max!) in 2 years, common? any team that cannot do without a number of players for only four weeks in 2 years does NOT deserve to be in the top leagues and should go to the lower leagues which are dominated by european players

    so please engouhg fo this arrogant misguided calls it will never be shifted to satisfy the whims of a few disgruntled european managers~

  • Comment number 26.

    There are clearly 2 sides of this situation... the top european leagues and the African nations. Nobody can't deny the fact that hosting the tournament every 2 years has been the key to sustain the development of football in Africa. And it probably should be kept that way, considering the economic situation.

    However, in terms of World Cup performances and achievements, I can't seriously consider any of the african nations a true contender for the victory if they keep hosting their ACN on the same year as the W.C. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to infer that most of the players from the teams qualified to the WC are usually playing in the teams from the top leagues throughout the year, that means a lot more top level games, which in the end it wears out the players both physically and mentally. By the time the WC comes those players will be demanding an oxygen balloon and nobody can't blame them.

    I'm not sure if you guys have noticed a pattern in the last WC's but usually we get to see the odd african team surprising everyone with their performances in the first round... but come the 1/8's or quarters and they can barely walk on the pitch... Anyone remember Cameroon vs England in Italy '90... Nigeria vs Italy in USA '94... Nigeria again this time vs. Denmark in France '98... Senegal vs. Turkey in 02... Sure, Cameroon and Nigeria lost to the likes of England and Italy, but if you get to check those games again you'll notice how incredibly tired were the african players by the 70th minute.

    They could think of moving the tournament to an odd year so it doesn't collide with the WC and they can still keep hosting it every 2 years... assuming the african people want an actual chance of ever winning the WC. African players might be known for their strength but they are humans like the rest of us.

  • Comment number 27.

    I think the blame has to be taken by the organising committee of the Africans Cup. There is no need of the tournament being organised every two years knowing for the fact that it will take place in the same year as the FIFA world cup every second time. Players like Drogba play 60 games on an average every season with the Africans cup and The Fifa World cup this year they will end up playing around 80 games ! This is insane ! No wonder they could get injured before the World cup .Fifa has to step in such matters ! The best possible solution is that they organise the Africans cup every four years like the Euros in the summers .

  • Comment number 28.

    TAD NOooooooooooooooo..... i am sure you will write the same article every two years, but the answer will always be the same... nooo... those multi millionaire club can buy one more player to compensate for the loss...

  • Comment number 29.

    Firstly, its not "selfish" of the clubs to try and protect their own interests, its merely self preservation. Is it "selfish" to want to win the league or avoid relegation?

    Also calling them "Europe's millionaires" only distorts the issue by attempting to turn it into some international class war, which it isn't, its a practical issue.

    Secondly, another theme that seems common here is people saying they know what they are getting when they sign them, which is a fair argument but consider the negative side of that. It means (as in the cited Patrick Mboma case) that teams will opt against signing African players. This cannot be good for the Continents football, surely its better to have as many players playing across Europe's top leagues as possible?

    I personally believe its a conscious decision by both Alex Ferguson & Rafa Benitez not to sign African players, in order to give them an advantage over the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea come every second January.

    Thirdly, from a financial & marketing point of view it makes far more sense to hold the tournament in the summer of every odd year.

    I can only speak from an English perspective, but at present its very much afterthought as the Premiership remains the main and to some extent only focus at this time of year, with the ACN news getting a few column inches here.

    By rescheduling it they would have the worlds footballing attention and garner far more International media coverage. This would surely increase revenues and help to greatly improve the continents footballing infrastructure.

    Now I understand Africans might say "we don't care if you're watching, its our tournament and its been this way since 1957" and they'd be perfectly justified in that response, but all I would say don't let tradition stand in the way of progress.

  • Comment number 30.

    **I meant "Arsenal and Chelsea" not "Manchester United and Chelsea"... obviously**

  • Comment number 31.

    So Europe are put out by Africa because of a football tournament eh? Boo hoo. Sorry, but given the way history has gone between the two continents, I don't think we can really complain. If the rich clubs want to keep their players, they'll have to show the CAF the money to reschedule their tournament.

  • Comment number 32.

    mayoite901 wrote:

    The best possible solution is that they organise the Africans cup every four years like the Euros in the summers .

    Whose summer are we talking about here? Europe's or Africa's?

    I'd think switching it to and odd year is a must, so it and a WC cannot land on the same year. As for anything else, that;s for Africa to decide.

  • Comment number 33.

    i am an indian ,which means i am neither an african nor a european.basically i am a big fan of the game of football as someone who is neutral to the issue,i totally disagree with the fact that the african cup should be rescheduled,it has been going on like this for the past 53 years and should continue this way,.managers are very well aware of the fact when they buy an african player that the player will go for his african cup,it is a fact they know in advance,and frankly should stop cibbing about it,as far as i am concerned,thats all....

    besides i dont remember african players refusing to go and play for their country saying they want to keep playing for their clubs????????????/...

    i have grown up with the fact that your country comes before anything else,i am glad the african players have always done the same.....

    god bless africa....

  • Comment number 34.

    Like everybody above has commented, this argument comes up every 2 years. Give it a rest! It suits CAN and the whole of Africa to hold this great event every two years for certain reasons and the reasons have been made known to all and sundry.
    I for one use to think that the tournament should be every 4 years just like the World Cup and European Championship but coming to think of it "Why do we have to wait every 4 years before we see our very best players playing against each other?" It is a pity that great players like Zidane, Ronaldo (Br.), Roberto Baggio, etc could not play more world cup matches!
    The best of the best should meet more often so that we the viewers and supporters can have more joy in watching them play for their countries! The pride, the joy, the pains are all that make playing for your country worth while! In this wise I fully support that the world cup should be played more often. Saying that I should say playing the ACN every 2 years is very ideal!
    As for playing it in january/february - we all agree that it is the Best time in Africa to play this tournament so let us leave it at that!

  • Comment number 35.

    24. At 11:52pm on 24 Dec 2009, Idioterna wrote:
    You cannot seriously tell me that a few guest workers from Africa can hold the EPL to ransom. Without playing for EPL teams these guys would be trying to cross the Med in dinghies.
    Lose the last four letters of your username.It'll suit you better!

  • Comment number 36.

    How about the European leagues taking a break coinciding with the African Cup of Nations every two years, so that they too can sit back and enjoy the football?

  • Comment number 37.

    The timing of this tournament was decided many years ago, long before African players began to play for European clubs. At that time it was perfect, since it did not clash with any other commitments. Now, that is different. Many of the biggest names at the tournament will be leaving their clubs to compete.
    Additionally the bi-annual recurrance seems to by at odds with other international tournaments, again stemming form a time when African nations rarely made any impact on World cup tournaments.
    There is no reason that this tournament couldnt be rearranged to take place during the summer, and it could then happen every two years between World Cup and Euros, if TV Audience is an issue.
    All the talk of managers knowing about this before they sign them, doesnt alter the fact that it is badly timed.

  • Comment number 38.

    Some time I wander why so many Premier League coach complain every two years about the time the ACN pray. The coach know 100% that every two years ACN should be pray, and therefore if they know why the sing then? if they know it is a problem for them, then they should not have been sing them simple is that.And I have confidence that FIFA is not going to change the date rather the month, it should be JANUARY.We Africans we need our prayers every intenational march, if you know you did not relased the prayer then you do not have to sing him.God bless AFRICA.AMEN

  • Comment number 39.

    You have to put the weather into consideration. We have two seasons, rainy and dry(harmattan) seasons... june/july falls into rainy season. June - september are the peaks of rainy season. Hence, the ACN tournament can only be staged anywhere btw Nov - April.

  • Comment number 40.

    torontored wrote:

    There is no reason that this tournament couldnt be rearranged to take place during the summer, and it could then happen every two years between World Cup and Euros, if TV Audience is an issue.
    All the talk of managers knowing about this before they sign them, doesnt alter the fact that it is badly timed.


    There are many reasons why the tournaments cannot be played in (our) summer.
    1) Massive rain storms could cancel out days of the tournament depending on which country is hosting it.
    2) In the southern countries, our summer is their winter, as you shall see at this years World Cup. Which is far from ideal.. South Africa have no choice when it comes to the World Cup, but I assure you if they did, they'd want it in their summer.
    3) The African people want the ACN in January.
    4) It fits in with the African league structure.
    5) Africa should not have to wane to Europe's wishes in the 21st Centuary, we already pushed our state of mind (to put it mildly) onto them for far to long a time.

    .. I could keep going? Think a little more, from their perspective.. please..

    As for it it being changed so it's not on the same year as a World Cup, I and many others agree.

  • Comment number 41.

    Idioterna @24 said:
    >>”...Without playing for EPL teams these guys would be trying to cross the Med in dinghies. The EPL should be dictating the terms and conditions plain and simple...”

    Talking about “across the Med in dinghies”, how do you think European ancestors came to Europe from Africa? Yes, you guessed it (or maybe not): same good-old-dinghies and by foot too.

    Also there are UK Employment laws and similar EU laws that protect employees against employers (as you put it) “dictating the terms and conditions” of employment. And don't think that these laws do not apply to (as you put it) "guest workers". Now where were we?

    As I said earlier, if England wants to win the 2018 World Cup bid, the EFA should tell these football mangers to 'shut it'. England would need the African votes to win the bid and you don't do that by allowing some football managers – amongst them, 'guest workers' -- to piss-off the CAF and Africans.

  • Comment number 42.

    The African Nations and Players should take all this complaining about the schedule as the ultimate (sideways) compliment.
    The players born on the African Continent are of such quality that their employers feel their clubs cannot do without them.
    Every two years is maybe a bit much, but other than that, play and enjoy.

  • Comment number 43.

    Right at this very moment, so many matched across Europe are being cancelled as a result of snow, or to put it, bad weather. Piers is trying hard to justify the fact that, the reasons adjudicated by Africa for the hosting of the tournament every second year is not only light weight, but unreasonable.

    If the author, who had lived in Senegal for sometimes, cannot also explain to the whole world the weather conditions in Africa around June, as proposed by European clubs, then he is not doing justice to the whole matter. With all the technological advancements in Europe, they are still at the mercy of the weather as to cancel their sporting events. How much more a continent that the same Western Press brand as "developing".

    In effect, we can summarise the stand of Europe as this, we know you are developing but not as fast as to reach our level. The World Cup as a matter of fact, is held to please the European countries because there is no fairness at all in the World Cup. Equally, there are some leagues in Europe that have completed their leagues or are on break as a result of weather concerns. Why then should Africa be an exception to this case?

    Please let us look realistically into this issue. The whole issue is to how and when players are released, something that can be addressed. Other than that, please, allow us to enjoy our only showpiece!

  • Comment number 44.

    Lets be realistic guys

    We all love to see the African teams battle out each other every two years !!!
    But the main problem is that since the ACN clashes with the Europe matches it results in reduced number of viewers
    I would reccomend that the AFc be shifted to an odd year. And instead if complaining all day bout it ..the european people spould help them out in the change .
    this will result in us being able to watch a good tournament every year + better viewership numbers for the nations.
    The ACN helps the whole continent and brings the whole continent together

  • Comment number 45.

    Comment no 32 @ Nick...
    I meant it should be done in June/July...I know many people here have written regarding the rainy season in Africa but then again the world cup this year is taking place during those months so why would that be a problem for Africans Cup if its not for World Cup ?

  • Comment number 46.

    Sub-Saharan African players are a very, very, very small minority of all the players in the British football, and other European, leagues. Why even worry about them?? Let them have their joke competition every second year (unlike the rest of the World continents) and do not worry about them. Some of them are good but the European Leagues are not going to cry over 4 weeks every second season when they are not available. By the way, they KNOW the European leagues are on in the winter and off in the summer?? So if some of us are so concerned, let them play in the summmer, every year in their "competition" if it suits them and that is what they want. They can then play without fear of criticism. I am sure they appreciate the money they earn in Europe as opposed to what pittance they earn wherever they are from. The European leagues must NOT change - they must change.

  • Comment number 47.

    @ mayoite901 (comment 45):

    June/July does indeed work for South Africa, but it really doesn't for the Middle-African countries, Nigeria, Cameroon, Senegal (and that region) do indeed have massive rain storms in Europe's summer.. too many countries would encounter problems with regards to hosting it at this time of year, fact.
    It also shows that the dates for the World Cup and Olympics are not really fair on that region either.. us Europeans get a pretty good deal, all things considered.

    Africa's tournament should be based around Africa, not Europe or the rest of the world.

    And hell, I love watching it!

  • Comment number 48.

    I believe the date ought to change since it negates the efforts of those who employ them.It is not a question of pleasing european clubs,but rather moral justice.When the African cup was established,no player from the continent was playing high profile soccer in any big league perhaps because of racial issues and stuff.Now,if we ve crossed over,and have been accepted as equals,why not rethink in order to give more chances to our budding stars.It might happen that these teams ll would have second thoughts when hiring African players.May be we should have players' forum and ask them about how they feel!

  • Comment number 49.


    The ANC is for Africans and NOT played to entertain non-Africans – get it? If non-Africans want to watch, they can, but how and when Africa plays its nations cup is no business of Europe.

    With or without European-based African players, the ANC will still go on, but continue to delude yourself that all other continents circle Europe.

    Some Europeans are in denial like an old courtesan who believes that she is still in much demand even in younger social circles. Put another way, Africa don't need Europe, outside mutual trade, but Europeans continue to convince themselves that Africa is in distress and needs them – the busy-bodies that Europeans are; they pretend sadness and make Africans feel guilty when Africans tell them they don't need their help.

    Mind your own business and leave the Africans to run African football as they wish.

  • Comment number 50.

    Like other Chelsae fans who have posted comments, they are aware of the situation that happens every two years quit the whining and give some of the younger squad players a chance, bring back de Santos. Our team is aging and the yougsters need a chance to shine. With love from Winnipeg.

  • Comment number 51.

    Why dont the English Football go on winter break like the other European leagues. The players in the EPL do not perform as much as they do normally. I watched the West Ham vs Chelsea match and saw that the players, wearing gloves, were not what they really are. Lampard, Terry, Drogba and co performed as if they were getting up from bed.

    If the EPL takes a winter break, then this issue will be minimal.

    I do not think the African players playing in the African tournament the same year as the World Cup does reduce their performance at their cluhe World Cup. If they were not playing for their countries at the Nations Cup, they would have been playing for their English Clubs and that is almost the same amount of football played. The highest they cold play at the African Nations Cup is 6 games. If they stay back to play for the English Clubs, it is still about 4 Premieship games, 2 Carling Cup games and FA cup games.

    That the Africans earn well in European football is the same as the Europeans earning well in football. If they wear not in football, they would have been in some other trade which of course will be less paying than football.

    Football is not all about money. Infact, the influx of money or the monetisation of football has reduced the quality and dignity of the game of football. We enjoyed football more when it was played for the fun of it. How else do we explain the firing of Mark Hughes of Manchester City. Because the owners of man City want instant success for their investment.

    Therefore, African football is more about having fun, just like a carnival and not all about money. To Africans, life does not revolve around money, but around brotherhood and love for humanity.

  • Comment number 52.

    Some topics are not worth debating upon; this is one of them. This is all about flexing muscles of financial power verse what-ever is in their mind...

  • Comment number 53.

    The amount of ignorance and arrogance expressed in this blog is overwhelming to say the least. Take the Fulham coach, Roy Hodgson, as an example. He says Ghana's request to have John Pantsil released on December 27 is disrespectful. Ha! Who's being disrespectful here? OK, if you cannot respect an African nation, then maybe respect FIFA since they set the dates when the players can be released.

    "On the face of it, it does border on the insane to stage a continental finals during the European season..." And now we are being called insane for trying to do our own thing. This is not being staged in Europe for crying out loud. It would indeed be insane to stage a continental finals in Europe during the European season. But this is not about Europe for goodness' sake.

    What about the weather? Here there is a serious ignorance of African geography. For the information of all the ignorant people in Europe, the Equator cuts right across Africa. Some countries in Africa (like it or not) are in the northern hemisphere, others are in the southern hemisphere. The weather patterns in Africa are not uniform. Thus when the tournament is held in the northern hemisphere, January is the best time for it. The same might not necessarily be true in the southern hemisphere. In January 2010 in Angola, rain might be a factor since Angola is in the southern hemisphere. Learn your geography!

    Worldwide attention? Actually the Nations Cup has more worldwide attention now because of all the complaining by the big teams than it would have if these guys went away quietly during the European break. Nobody would really care. But right now, attention is being drawn to the Nations Cup simply because it is in January and the European clubs are feeling the pinch!

    Finally, if you cannot stand Africans, just don't hire them. Simple and klaar!

  • Comment number 54.

    In terms of the Premier League, the African Nations Cup could prove good news for footballing neutrals. Chelsea will be without two of their top three strikers in January, and that surely makes the race for the Premier League title all the more open. Anelka is due back from injury shortly, but beyond him there is only Sturridge and Borini as cover, both players who, let's be honest, are nowhere near the class of Drogba. I can see Chelsea dropping more points in January, especially if Anelka doesn't get himself fit and playing well quickly.

  • Comment number 55.

    This is just European arrogance. I hope Africa stands its ground and takes all this posturing as a compliment to the quality of its players.

    What part of management, don't the likes of Hodgeson and Grant understand? I thought management was about managing a squad, increasingly it is just about complaining. If they don't like then buy a half the talent, double the price English player.

    On the face of it Piers, it does border on the insane that you consider the whining of Portsmouth and Fulham on the same magnitude as the African Cup of Nations.

  • Comment number 56.

    They that complain should have know that the players are to serve their father land too.

  • Comment number 57.

    There's also another possibility......the English clubs could take a winter break like every self-respecting European league! Many players and officials in the Premiership have advocated this in the past for the good health of Premiership players.

    Secondly, if Piers thinks that CAF's complaints about harsh weather in June/July annually is not correct, he only needs to come and live here in Nigeria to convince himself. True, World Cup and AFCON qualifiers are held in those months in Africa, but these marches are single matches per team per weekend, which could be rescheduled to later in the week. A 3-week tournament is a different ball game entirely. You only need to look at the recently concluded U-17 World Cup in Nigeria to gain an insight into CAF's fears: though hosted in October/November, by which time the rains are almost over, the torrential rain storms that disrupted matches in Enugu and Calabar are a case in point. It rained so hard during the final Group matches at these centers that it was difficult to see your team mate more than 20 metres away, let alone play football!

    Finally, it's a symptom of the usual English malaise of assumed superiority that individuals whose only claim to importance is that they teach grown men how to chase a ball and to kick it can attempt to dictate to a whole continent when to host their events! Roy Hodgson's comment on Ghana's disrespect was extremely annoying to me. When non-entities like that disparage an entire continent, I think CAF must do the right thing: stick to their guns!

  • Comment number 58.

    Penno (#43) implies I have a problem with the Nations Cup being a biennial competition, but this is not the case. Having driven from Senegal to Ghana for last year's Nations Cup, passing through Mali and Burkina Faso en route, I can safely say that the infrastructural benefits to a nation which come from hosting the Nations Cup cannot be underestimated. Mali's main roads, which were upgraded for the 2002 finals, are as good as any I've encountered in Africa and put the neighbouring Senegalese, potholes aplenty, to shame - especially considering the disparity in wealth between the nations. So the chance to develop, and doing so ten times every 20 years, than just five, is most welcome.

    Re. the timing of the finals, one comment above suggested we should put it to the players - which would be a fascinating exercise, for many are against it at the moment. In fact, there's a story on the BBC's African football page at the moment - - which explains how Zambia's Jonas Sakuwaha has asked not to be included in the 2010 Nations Cup squad because his club contract is up for renewal next month and that is more important to him at the moment than turning out for his country. Whichever way you look at it, it's a shame he can't do both - especially as the dream for most footballers is to play for their country...

  • Comment number 59.

    The players should go and play for their countries because thats what makes them. The tournament should therefore continue.

  • Comment number 60.

    Good article as usual Piers, nearly missed it, so im glad i caught it on the front sport page.

    A few weeks back many Africans were complaining that not enough Africans are given a chance in the Premier League. There were countless shouts of inequality and racism.

    Amusingly in this blogs responses, the Africans are saying "If you don't like the scheduling, then don't sign the players'. Then giving it the "European arrogance" again. HELLO! This is African arrogance. There seems to be some irony here... Quite a few clubs have no Africans at all now, and i can't say im in the least bit surprised, due to this issue.

    Why sign a player and pay his wages, when he leaves you for 15% of the season? Its madness. Would you sign an employee who said that every other year he would take an extra months paid vacation, to the detrement of your company? And yes the clubs know it when they sign the players but there is also COMMON SENSE. ie why make players leave on the 27th when there is a game on the 28th? Why not make them leave straight after the game? Plain stupid.

    If anything it will hinder the development of African footballers as less will have the chance to play in the Premier League.Looking across the 3 strongest leagues in the World there are some Africans, but not as many as one might expect. I remember the influx of Scandanavians in the nineties for example. This cant and wont happen until the African cup of nations gets moved.

    Why not change the schedule? It makes sense. Play it in the same year as the Euros, every 4 years. Playing a tournament every 4 years instead of 2 makes it even more special. You lose and you dont get another shot for 4 years BUT you have the World Cup 2 years inbetween.

    Like you said in your blog, if football is unplayable in June/July, then what the hell is the World Cup doing in the African continent? Once again, complete double standards.

  • Comment number 61.

    Phil nice comment

    Moving the ACN to mid year presents a massive commercial opportunity instead of competing with the European leagues. During June and July we are usually starved of football, why not give the viewers a major international tournament? (and reap the financial rewards.)

    As one early comment wrote, if they can play the World Cup and WC qualifiers in June and July why can't they play the ACN?

  • Comment number 62.

    #57 "Finally, it's a symptom of the usual English malaise of assumed superiority that individuals whose only claim to importance is that they teach grown men how to chase a ball and to kick it can attempt to dictate to a whole continent when to host their events!"

    This is a completely racist slur. There are plenty of others within the comments, why aren't they removed i wonder? Because if you are a African its acceptable to throw racial abuse at the English? It seems that way from many of the posters who post from Africa. Sad but true. If i posted something similar about Africans, it would be moderated in seconds by the PC brigade. Appauling

  • Comment number 63.

    Last point about some of the hypocritical comments.

    Its not right that Africa should change the ACN dates BUT Englands Premier League should take a winter break!!!! So we shouldnt change one tournament (a relatively new one) but instead we should change the World's oldest footballing league to suit a few African players. Hehehe. Good shout.

  • Comment number 64.

    Phil wrote: (comment no. 60)
    Like you said in your blog, if football is unplayable in June/July, then what the hell is the World Cup doing in the African continent? Once again, complete double standards.

    Africa spans over the Northern and Southern Hemisphere's, and has the Equator pass straight through it. The weather over the continent differs dramatically between the Northern and Siouthern states.. and the region which would be effected bu dramatic weather conditions in june/july does not include South Africa.

    You make some good points about the topic from an employment stand point (and even on the double 'racist' standards of what is acceptable). However some of your points regarding how, when and how often the tournament do not really take in opinions of the African people, and it's their tournament.

    This isn't intended to be a dig, I enjoyed reading your input.

  • Comment number 65.

    Cheers Nick. I know especially in North Africa June/July is pretty unbearable in the daytime - ive been there at that time of year. I wonder if matches can't be scheduled very early kick offs or night games? The World Cup in the United States was played in their summer and this was a success despite the sapping heat.

    Also, if the ACN changed its schedule to suit the European Leagues/European Championships, then maybe the federations could join together and bring the end of the domestic league forward - to the end of April and this means European nations have longer to prepare for Euro Champs and the ACN can be played in May, when its not as hot?

    Dont know rainy seasons for every nation BUT what i would say is that if only 1 nation can be chosen every 4 years, then for the next 10 tournaments (40 years) surely you could find nations with suitable climates and conditions for the tournament to go ahead? Who knows, in 40 years time, Africa could have moved forward leaps and bounds (maybe this is a pipe dream, but who knows) and have its own leagues where players dont have to move to EPL etc.

    Like i said i think its bad for African players, English clubs and the development of the African game in general. I personally don't see how anyone 'wins' by the current situation. Even if the ACN changed to every 4 years but still in January, i still think this would be an improvement for all concerned. More Africans would be signed by top clubs, this would improve the African nations and increase their chances of a World Cup win - and surely that is their ULTIMATE aim?

  • Comment number 66.

    Also, what are peoples thoughts on if the ACN will help an African team win the World Cup?

    FOR) 2 tournaments in a year will give the team more time to play together, grow in confidence and play as a team. Also more competitive games.

    AGAINST) Mentally playing 2 tournaments in 6 months is going to be draining. Also physically it must take it out of you to play in your domestic league title race, ACN then WC!! Wow, thats tough! Also extra traveling.

    Maybe i would say the AGAINST slightly outweighs the FOR, but there are arguments for both. Maybe if no African team does well in the WC2010, then they may re-think the ACN schedule?

  • Comment number 67.

    #62....what is really racist is a club coach telling a National Association that it is disrespectful for merely requesting the services of their National Team player at a date completely in accordance with FIFA's regulations...... Does it not bother you that such comments are coming from only Premiership coaches? No offence intended against the English (among whom I have many friends), but I still think Premiership coaches should get a dose of reality.......the players need to play for their countries because it was playing for their countries in the first place that got them their lucrative contracts! Think about this: if you are not a super regular in your National Team (appearance in at least 75% of the National Team's matches within the last two years prior to moving to the Premiership), you can't secure a work permit to play in the Premiership! How come then, that clubs in the same Premiership are asking the same players to sacrifice their international careers for the clubs?

    #63....the EPL may be the world's oldest league, but the AFCON is among the oldest continental competitions in the world, predating even the European championships (yeah...check it out)! Would you ask UEFA to change their competition dates merely because they clash with the EPL's calendar? If not with UEFA, then why with CAF? The EPL may be 1 millenium old, but it's still a National championship, not a continental one involving National Teams. In that sense it's agents speaking collectively or as individuals cannot stipulate African football calendars!

    Have you wondered why a UEFA apologist has not become FIFA President since the 1970s? Simple: it's attitudes such as expressed by Hodgson and Grant that have led to an abiding distrust of UEFA's motives! In this sense, Premiership agents seem to be the strident protagonists of this attitude, and that is what informs the outrage of most Africans towards them.

  • Comment number 68.

    Let us have our "joke"(as one European just described it) tournament in peace please. It's time Europeans realized that the world does not evolve around Europe. Honestly the ignorance being displayed here is down right pathetic. As for the writer of this article, do you live in Africa or just go there for a safari once every year?

  • Comment number 69.

    "An important English club once offered me a good financial and sporting deal, but I was honest and explained my commitments with Cameroon, especially the Nations Cup, so I lost the deal," Patrick Mboma recently told the BBC. "But I have no regrets. I was a Cameroonian before becoming a footballer, so my country comes first."


    I think this is forgotten by most english footballers.........PRIDE!!!!! we should applaud this commitment to country over club!

  • Comment number 70.

    #67 Christopher, i understand your points, but to put it simply, UEFA don't need to change their calendar, as it already fits in with all the domestic European Leagues. ACN doesnt and many of the participating players compete in European leagues. European leagues far outdate the ACN, so surely priority goes to what was there first?

    Also Hodgson and Avram Grant (WHO IS NOT ENGLISH) are not racists or disrespectful. Other African players and ambassadors have questioned the timing and regularity of this competition too. On more than one occassion. I think Hodgson's view is this. They have a HUGE game - a local derby - with Chelsea on the 28th. Drogba and Kalou have been allowed to stay and play. Why not Pantsil for Fulham? Yes FIFA have rules saying any nation CAN recall its players, but there is no rule saying they HAVE to. So asking for an extra 24 hours is hardly a crime. Remember Fulham do pay his wages and it is only 24 hours. I think Hodgson was just asking for a bit of slack, not that the player simply doesn't go, just 1 day late! Often players coming back from ACN come back late anyway! Its happened MANY times. I think he finds it disrespectful that even though he will lose his player for 1 MONTH, they wont allow him to stay 1 DAY extra. I also think thats disrespectful.

    Excellent point about the players needing to participate in 75% of the internationals to get work permits. Very very valid arguement. BUT if the ACN was moved to the summer months, the players would still never miss the games, so would still have their 75% appearances. At present they definitely have to play in the ACN to keep their work visa.

    Let me make it clear I DONT BLAME AFRICAN PLAYERS one little bit. If i was them i would also want to play for my nation. Its good that they have national pride, and want to be involved in the ACN. I just think the timing is all wrong. Just my opinion.

  • Comment number 71.

    I think terming the coaches' comments as "racist" is a bit of a stretch here. In the case of Hodgson, he really should have been accorded the bit of slack so as to have his player available for that one match, especially given that it will have virtually no effect on him joining his national squad (unless he has the misfortune of getting injured during the match, but that's neither here nor there as it can equally happen in training) in acceptable time.

    As for changing the schedule, CAF should really be more open to suggestion and pick a slot that favours the players and their national outfits. I hardly think either is being well served come the world-cup final. Consider those who will participate in ACN, the local European league cups, and possibly Champions league or Europa cup? They are likely to be too exhausted to give their best for their nations at the world-cup I think...

    How about staging ACN in the same year as Euro but say in August or September, just before or shortly after the Euro leagues begin? Alternatively we could go for June of an Odd year (2009, 2001, etc.) so as to avoid conflict with the world-cup final. Just my opinion though.

  • Comment number 72.

    Piers Edwards @58: “Zambia's Jonas Sakuwaha has asked not to be included in the 2010 Nations Cup squad because his club contract is up for renewal next month and that is more important to him at the moment than turning out for his country...”

    You wrote that you have journeyed through parts of Africa but it seems you have not acquainted yourself with the African cultures.

    Not many true Africans would put their interest before that of their own country. Jonas Sakuwaha's mind must have being contaminated by the Western thinking process, that is to say, “individualism” or “me-myself-and-I-ism” (I could hear Africans either sighing or kissing their teeth or both at what he said). Patrick Mboma is a true African because, unlike Jonas Sakuwaha, his country came first for him.

    “me-myself-and-I-ism” is an alien concept to Africans, and quoting Jonas Sakuwaha in your argument makes your argument untenable and with less support.

  • Comment number 73.

    Phil@60: “A few weeks back many Africans were complaining that not enough Africans are given a chance in the Premier League. There were countless shouts of inequality and racism.”

    Yeah right! Keep making up imaginary stories so as to present a counter augments -- you are not getting any applause from me mate! Beside, read all the comments before yours @60, and you will find that you are the first to inject into the debate or use the word “racism”.

    Saying that one is arrogant is not synonymous with saying that one is a racist, there!

    One sees a profile of a person who likes talking about race and, therefore, always looking for an excuse to raise it or inject it into every conversation. One come across people like that in the pubs -- moaning about “all them foreigners coming in here, nicking our women and jobs or grandad fought in the war, but can't get his hip operation because of them foreigners ”.

    Comparing professional footballers to 9-5 employees is just a silly juxtaposition. It is like comparing apples with oranges. Football has a governing body and it is called, FIFA. And it is FIFA that sets the rules for professional football on earth. Now where is the 9-5 employees equivalent governing body? The Trades Unions Congress (TUC) or the Confederation of British Industries (CBI) or the government or even the UN? You need logic and not common common sense mate!

  • Comment number 74.

    Hey Piers,

    Please, I am still waiting for a blog on "An African team for the Noughties".

    Phil and Tim have already picked their European and South American teams respectively.

    It would be great to have an African one and to see how they compare to each other and what bloggers have to say.

    Thanks Piers

  • Comment number 75.

    It seems like the same things are being repeated time and again here... but a quick question.. If the first tournament was held in 1957, then why was it changed to occur on an even year if its a biennial competition?

    I have strong roots in africa and feel a belonging there.. even though it itself isn't too strong at football (Kenya), there is still an underlying sense of togetherness in the continent. The fact that it is done every two years isn't a problem and personally I agree with the blog in that it helps invest,ent into the countries and helps boost the economy in shorter cycles .. for the person saying that they should change it to every four years to make it more special seems quite short sighted and imposing... it really should be done whenever they feel like it.

    There does seem to be an instant negative reaction though from the thourough-bred Africans commenting here, and I feel it's mostly because of the sense of Europe bossing Africa about, which when taking even a small amount of history isn't too unfamiliar. Nevertheless, there are very strong points that can only be in favour of Africa that can be brought about by changing the year of the competition, an increased viewer base being the most obvious, which in turn increases the value of the tournament and subsequent funding into the host countries.
    A second strong argument is that talented players are more lmikely to be signed.. in the case of Jonas Sakuwaha, I think it's outrageous that he's even forced to have to make a decision on the matter... he should be able to freely choose who he wants to play for without having to think about the eventual consequences which aren't a factor of consideration for non-African players.
    The only argument for keeping the status-quo that I hear is that of tradition and refusal to be bossed about. Until the initial question of this post is answered, I currently see no reason to change the year..
    Also there would be a run of two ACoNs in two years at some point.. which can only be a good thing !

  • Comment number 76.

    #72 + #73 hahaha, i remember you from another blog. The one i was discussing. Quite a comical chap i recollect. Please feel free to look back at Piers very first blog. You will find COUNTLESS posts saying Africans not getting employed in Englands Premier League is racist and there is no other reason - well ACN seems a pretty good reason.

    And of course EVERY African puts his nation before himself. Thats why many talented Africans move to Europe or the States for a better life. All those African doctors and nurses who abandon their mother land in search of better lifes, rather than looking after sick Africans in their own country. Hahaha. Nation before themselves hehehe. You really are laughable. Africans are just the same as Europeans in mentality to their mother land. You may like to think you are superior, but you aren't. The difference is when an African loves their motherland its a good thing. When a European loves theirs, their are a racist nationalist.

    I gave one example of the racist comment already on this blog at #62. Its equivalent to me saying 'the one thing Africans are good at is throwing spears'. Its just a dumb comment, aimed at abusing a race. But you don't find the comment about the English racist? Now there is a surprise.

  • Comment number 77.

    Phil@70.....looks like we are locked in our separate views! The crucial questions to ask are: what did Chelsea do that Fulham did not do? Did any other Ghanaian invited to Ghana's Nations Cup camp play in Europe or eslewhere this weekend (it would have been nice to know if Essien would've played today if he were fit)? You cannot "force" Ghana to align with Fulham's plans, period. They are not some third rate league outfit....they are a the Football Association of a Sovereign country, and deserve to be addressed with the necessary respect by everyone, including Mr. Hodgson. Their demands are completely in accord with FIFA's regulations, full stop!

    UEFA's calendar does not clash with the EPL's because the EPL has "aligned" with it! Of course the Managers of the EPL are free schedule their league as they deem fit. But no Club Manager within the EPL reserves the right to postulate to CAF on when best to schedule their events, just because it doesn't suit them!

    "If anything it will hinder the development of African footballers as less will have the chance to play in the Premier League". This comment (#60) is one that I particularly disagree with. I'm actually not a fan of British football in general, because I find the style too predictable. The African players make a lot of money from the EPL no doubt, but in footballing terms what do they really gain? I can argue very strongly that the stock of many African players has actually fallen since they joined clubs in the EPL! Think of Mikel Obi who used to be a wonderful offensive talent for instance, and consider what tutelage in the Premiership did to him! Perhaps he would have been better served by a move to a club like Ajax Amsterdam instead of Chelsea. This is just one example. In terms of football quality (not merely goal-mouth excitement), the Spanish League is probably a better place to develop.....that's one of the reasons why Cristiano Ronaldo decided to go there.

    Think about how many European and World Footballers of the Year that have come out of that league and the Calcio compared to the EPL, and you will agree with me on the above points. The EPL actually represents a football culture/style that Nigeria (and many Anglophone African countries) has been at pains to distance itself from since the 90s (deliberately holding the ball and articulating a game-plan on the field like our Francophone or Maghreb brothers are more likely to do, as opposed to frantically criss-crossing the field with crosses and lobs, with men in hot pursuit). With the exception of very few clubs, the football is too direct, and there's precious little guile on display! You cannot make a World Cup winning team entirely from players playing in this league! Bottom line is that I would actually encourage African players (even if it means a slight drop in wages) to move to the European continent, both for their peace of mind, and for the quality of their game!

    This argument has been over-flogged, and that despicable word "racist" (used very lightly here in my opinion, by people who don't know what it means) even crept into the discourse. I don't think I will post anymore comments on this subject. I think CAF are on the right course in proceeding with the AFCON as they have for the last half century!

  • Comment number 78.

    Oh and on the subject of these 'proud african players' are they the same players who go on strike because their bonuses are not high enough? Say they won't play for their 'beloved' nation unless they get more money? These are the same people who only play because of 'pride', right? snigger snigger

  • Comment number 79.

    "UEFA's calendar does not clash with the EPL's because the EPL has "aligned" with it!"

    Actually the English league outdates UEFA by a long way!

    "I can argue very strongly that the stock of many African players has actually fallen since they joined clubs in the EPL"

    Ok which players? I bet i can name way way way more whose stock have risen. Mikel had only ever played a handful of games in the Norweigian league. Who is to say whether he has become worse at Chelsea? They took a huge gamble paying so much for him, when he was totally unproven, and just a kid. Just raw talent. Ronaldo went to Madrid for many reasons im sure including it been culturally similar to Portugal, better weather, better City, more money, to name but a few things. I like La Liga, i think its on a par with the Premier League but certainly no better. Different. Equally good.

    World players of the year are just individuals, not a team or a league. Having one good individual doesnt make a good league.

  • Comment number 80.

    RE: 78. ... You also only have to look at the african athletics world too to see africans running under other (mainly middle eastern) flags.. however strong patriotism is.. there are always enough examples in practically every country where its never as peachy as people would like to believe.

    RE: 77... Christopher .. there are way too many what if's and maybe's to hold any sort of strong argument whatsoever..
    I agree with the Ghana vs. Hodgson argument.. its in the guidelines as to when Ghana can call up the players and its up to them whether to be lenient or not... fine,

    When it comes to African players in the EPL... how can you say that they don't benefit from playing in this league? They have the best training equipment on offer, very decent wages, some of the top coaches training them,top of the range medical facilities when they do get injured to help them recover better and quicker...
    and they're just as free to play in the european leagues.. if the spanish / italian leagues want african players, I'm sure they're not too shy to bid ... yaya toure has done quite well for himself...
    as far as who has the most world players of the year... you do know how much they paid for CRonaldo right ?... and from where ? Looking at recent history of which teams are regularly making it through the champions league should also give you a good idea as to how the quality of the leagues matches up .. each league (of spanish, english, italian) has a strong era before another takes over...

  • Comment number 81.

    These Europeans, lack respect and consideration towards Africans.
    They have colonised and stole from us, and they still want to do in sports too.
    Men I think is time let Africans do they thing as they want to. I know European teams got millions of Euros, but let the African players do their duty (once in 2 years), with your mouth shut.
    African players may not be the best FIFA world players, but their performance, consistency and commitment to the team is superb, you know it!
    So let us Africans enjoy...

  • Comment number 82.

    What's interesting is all the people who think the European Clubs can stuff it, they knew what they were signing up for, etc. Also seem to think the ACN is critical for developing African Football.

    Well the fact is, Drogba, Essien, Mutari, almost any African player you can name, developed their game playing for European clubs in european competitions.

    If clubs took the advice of don't buy African, it is African football that will suffer (including coutless african communities that these footballers send part of their earnings back to).

    Yes the club's knew up front, but yes they are helping make good african players great and their is no reason why the organizers of the ACN should not start a dialog/conversation to see what would be possible.

    Perhaps the European Leagues all agree to a xmas break, and the ACN is scheduled at that time to minimize impact (just a single idea, I'm sure with effort and a lot smarter people, we could come up with more).

  • Comment number 83.

    On a tangent subject.
    Any news or links to if the BBC will be showing the African Cup Of Nations. It was a joy to watch the last time on BBC2 and BBC3 I think it was, I just needed to keep an eye on which channels the matches were been transmitted and it some instances only on the red button!

  • Comment number 84.

    81. Lethal Injection.. I agree that the tournament can only be held in January... It's just the year change that I feel is leting Africa down... there is an easy fix, only changing the year its played on which has already been done which makes life easier for the African players... the only real question is whether CAF thinks it helps the African teams competing in the world cup if they've already warmed up in the ACoN or whether it tires them out .. which is right ?? I don't have a clue, but I only hope CAF do the best for their teams without having to feel that they're bowing to pressure from Europe... It doesn't have to be seen like that, and if it's for your own benefit, why restrict yourselves for pride ?

    Having to hold the tournament in Jan is an open - shut case .. until climate change mixes everything up...

  • Comment number 85.

    I'm European, but my team isn't going to lose any players for the Cup, so I think I'm fairly neutral...

    Should Africa reschedule the cup because the Europeans say so? Absolutely not!

    Should Africa reschedule the cup for its own good? I think so!

    Holding the AN Cup at the end of the 'European' season (by which I mean the season of the major countries, Italy/England/France/Spain/Germany) would have a number of advantages. Firstly it would mean not having to compete on TV with the Premiership - yes, they're completely different tournaments, but I know a lot of people who would love to watch Cameroon-Nigeria, but not if Manchester United are playing Arsenal in the league or the FA Cup.

    That's all about money - lots of people in Europe would happily watch football in the off-season, but there's not much on. Fill the space and watch the advertising money roll in! Football's not all about money, but that could be invested in grass roots programme to the long-term god of African football.

    What's more, there would be more options available to African footballers. Sure, right now clubs like Chelsea sign Africans, but others - notably Manchester United - have very few African players. I don't know why that is, but Ferguson obviously has no problem with buying foreigners, which makes me wonder if the African Nations Cup is the stumbling block.

    A biennial competition makes sense, and the money from the tournament is needed - but I'd definitely think it's better to switch to odd years - again, not because of Europe, but just to avoid the World Cup and European Championship - again, Africa doesn't NEED to avoid Europe and have no duty to do so, but holding the tournament in years in which there is little other competition could only increase interest outside Africa - which means money! It would also increase African teams' chances in the World Cup.

    I think that some people see any change to the scheduling as being done to placate Europe. I actually think that a change to scheduling would benefit Africa, and I would be sorry to see it not happen because of politica reasons.

    Finally, the cup should be held for one reason only - to benefit Africa, and Africa football. That said, Africa is not in a vacuum, and considering the way it affects the outside world IS relevant. Just look at the way the big clubs like Manchester United and Real Madrid target far Eastern markets. There is a real potential for increased TV viewing and even, given that a lot of people in Europe love the attacking style often shown by African teams, a real market for promoting African teams as your 'second team', i.e. the team I support when my own team is not playing. I was 11 in 1990 and was hugely impressed by the Cameroon performance at that World Cup. I would happily have watched the AN Cup if it had been on at the end of the season in 1991, and I would have bought a Cameroon shirt too! It's all money!

    Yes, there are traditions relating to the cup and to scheduling (it's been pointed out correctly that it has a finer tradition than the European Championship) but it would be sorry to see those traditions impede the African football of today.

    Sorry it's so long...

  • Comment number 86.

    For me this issue isn't just about African Cup of Nations. For me any international game that gets in the way of my clubs season is a massive irritant.

    I've lost count of the number of times players get injured, the team loses form or essential points are dropped due to international games.

    At the end of the day the clubs pay the players wages and should have far more say in when and how their players can be released for international duty - it's only logical.

    I'd be up for European clubs agreeing a two month period once a year where THEIR players can be released for international games and the football associations can schedule tournaments accordingly.

  • Comment number 87.

    #85 completely and utterly spot on. Agree 100%. But Africans are scared to compromise as they see this as getting dictated to by the evil colonial powers. "Cutting off your nose to spite your face" would be a term that fits the current attitude.

  • Comment number 88.

    I can see a lot of venom being spouted especially from my African brothers. I can understand your anger at imperialist and colonial oppression by our European brothers but let's all reason together here.

    Playing in June/July - I lived in Nigeria for about 15 years. At that time of the year it would be practically impossible to host a 4 week football tournament. I live in London, what we call heavy rains here are a drizzle back in Nigeria. As much as it would work well with global football calendars for the tournament to hold this time, it would end up being a disaster with only a small number of nations being able to host it so my suggestions is we stick to January or maybe slightly earlier or later. If the Premiership cancels the heave December schedule maybe December could be a possibility. So Africa compromises and so does EPL for the benefit of the game.

    Club vs Country - For most footballers like most people who do any job, your top priority is your family, then your country/heritage and then your employer. Because a footballers priority is their family before country they will usually make the right decision for their family which might mean refusing to go for a competition to represent their nation so they can secure the job that puts food on the table. To say Africans are more patriotic than Europeans is simply not true. A player would play for their nation as long as their income is not compromised but when it is they make big decisions which is the reason why many African sportsmen in amateur sports like Athletics end up representing richer nations. It doesn't mean they're unpatriotic, it simply means they are human. That's different from a Patrick Mboma who probably already had a good deal but turned down a better deal for patriotic reasons.

    Frequency of ACN: The only arguement for every 4 years is that every other major competition is every 4 years. My question is so what? I appreciate the fact that this may discourage managers from signing African players. But lets look at the World Cup, only 5 African teams feature and about 12 European teams and then you have the Euros so really Europe has a competition every 2 years. Financially The nations Cup helps as well as economically. It's only 4 weeks, for goodness sake. All that means is managers would only sign the best players from Africa cos they must be really good if you're gonna sign them knowing they'regoing to be away for 4 weeks every 2 years but considering the bargains you get african players for compared tgo their English counterparts I'd say fair deal.

    The year of the competition - I strongly believe we should move it to odd years so every year there can be major football competiton. Euros, ACN, Americas and WC. Having the ACN before the WC does take a bit of shine off it cos everyone's looking forward to the WC. Remember, while it's our tournament, we do want to show off to the whole world, don't we.

    Grant and Hodgson - I don't know what Grant said but to be honest whatever he said I'd forgive him anyways, he's in a desperate situation, bottom of the league with a team that lacks confidence with problems off the field and now losing some of his top players for 4 weeks, put yourself in his shoes, he must be desperate, the ACN for him is a very bad inconvenience. Roy Hodgson on the other hand is a really nice guy, remember, Fulham pay Pantsil's salary, he asked the Ghana FA to allow him stay 1 more day for a crucial match against Chelsea and they refused. I may be wrong but I saw that as a power play where the FA were playing the bully and the employer felt hard done by. I can understand the FAs position considering how arrogant some clubs may be towards national teams but I still think they went too far with Fulham.

    Anyway, the ACN starts soon. Please I hope it will be available on the BBC, I honestly can't wait.

    I hope Nigeria do well though I don't expect too much from them.

    Anyway Africa let's celebrate African football at its finest.

  • Comment number 89.

    #88: That was quite an interesting post. I don't know if Piers Edwards was in Dakar between 2005 and 2008; he should be telling us if the Senegalese government would be focused on organising a football competition (of players whingeing about heavy downpours at games) or saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people flooded in Pikine and Guediwwaye (Piers knows what I am talking about).

    Of course, not all countries on the continent have the same weather conditions. Southern Africa and northern Africa show different patterns. So should the Cup of Nations be hosted by only a handful of Nations (Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Morocco, Algeria,Tunisia and Egypt) because calendars must be aligned?

    To Phil and his multiple posts. I believe, the development of African soccer is actually destroyed by this mad rush to play in Europe for money. The fact that Drogba, Eto'o, Essien, Kalou, the Toure brothers are successful in Europe does not develop the "African" game. They are the big trees that mask the destruction of the forest around.

    The leagues are a shadow of themselves and clubs only sell players in what has become the new slavery. Kids are sent out at 14,15,16,17 to Europe to make money. If Africa has to develop its football, it is not in changing dates of the Nations Cup. It is in improving the infrastructure, organisation and sponsorship of the local game.

    A good local league which pays averagely well would mean fewer players taking the risk of their lives to go overseas to eran pittances at plymouth Argyle or some obnoxious Norwegian or ice-cold Russian 2nd division league.

    Take the Egyptians for an example. Very few Egyptians play in Europe but it has not stopped them from winning the Cup of Nations against Cote d'Ivoire and Ca meroon with 23 man squads of "professionals" from Europe including Drogba, Eto'o, et al.

    The most they should do is to bring in good soccer experts who would build the blocks of development after which the whole thing remains in the hands of Africans. Egypt (again) has won its africa Cups with Egyptian coaches developed in the country through a powerful well structured system.

    That is how Africa shall develop not through a few stars from Europe. Those stars would only be an addition and not the base of development.

    I dream of the time when all African leagues would be developed to host the bulk of their talent and be able to even attract talent from elsewhere, like Esperance Tunis did in the early part of this decade when it attracted Brazilians (who albeit naturalised as Tunisians) like Santos. It is possible. Then Africa could quietly organise its tournaments when it deems fit - under rules by CAF and FIFA.

    Happy New Year an d Happy Nations Cup to all.

  • Comment number 90.

    HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Excellent excellent posts by 88 and 89. I really enjoyed reading them as they are balanced and opinionated. Kudos to both of you!

    Ok here are some points i would like to discuss with you :) I agree that a winter break could make space for ACN. So thats something we really have to consider. But the only issue is taking this break minimises the summer break. And every even year we have Euros or World Cup, so ACN has to be odd years - thus it must change its schedule. But surely thats not a big thing, right? And i still think the tournament being every 2 years is too often. Surely the players need a break? For the good of African players, how can they play on 3 close seasons in 4 years? IE 2 winter breaks plus World Cup summer break. Surely this gives European and South American players an advantage come World Cup years?

    88 you are so spot on about human priorities. Yes we all would love to play for our country, but ultimately our family surely has to come first. Thus club and country need to live in harmony. So lets discuss our options and work out whats best for everyone!

    Ok, 89 :) You talk about players coming to earn a 'pittance' for the likes of Plymouth. Hmm. These guys are probably earning more in a month than most Africans do in a year. So coming to England really is a step up as they can support themselves and their families.

    Now, the real question is, does this damage African football? Questionable. Yes it can disrupt players, their footballing style for their nation BUT as another poster mentioned, they get the best facilities in the WORLD in England, can send a lot of money home, help develop the game ie Drogba paying for schools, charities and what not. So playing abroad does have a knock on benefit, as well as adverse effects.

    Sadly your example of Egypt is flawed because they have not even reached the World Cup. So clearly their system does NOT work, because they made the 1990 WC and since then nothing on the WORLD stage. And before then... well, nothing for nearly 60 years!

    I think the European arrogance to this tournament (which there is and this is why rightly Africans get upset) is because NO African team has ever produced on a World stage. So basically, small teams are trying to dictate to bigger ones. Its like Colchester, Bristol Rovers and Yeovil telling the Premier League what to do. The African nations have no History compared to Europe or South America, so its hard for us to be bossed around by PREVIOUSLY inferior teams. Now dont get me wrong, this is on HISTORY, not present day performance. And the better the African nations become the more their view is respected. Ultimately you have the final say on YOUR competition. But i just feel that all parties compromising is the best for everyone.

    I see Kolo Toure complaining about the tournament today as well. So its not just us Europeans :)

    Anyway, happy new year again, and thanks for a couple of excellent responses.

  • Comment number 91.

    Happy New Year All!


    I have never posted or participated in a BBC forum but your last post just made me have to do it. A good new start to the year. (I also read all your other posts).

    Thank You and Congratulations on an excellent post (I mean that). I vehemently disagree with everything you have to say (almost to the point of chest thumping, head holding distraction) but I appreciate the persuasive, passionate and POLITE way you go about arguing your position without lapsing into dogma or diatribe. I hope I am able to do the same (and call me out if I don't).

    On to the Football...

    Am glad to see that your are FINALLY coming round to the fact that aside from a handful of countries at the southern and northern most tips of the continent, it is geographically IMPOSSIBLE for us to host a football tournament (consisting of 16 teams playing 31 games in three weeks) between the months of June and August. The weather and climate in the vast majority of countries on the continent would just NOT allow it. I am hopeful that this admission on your part means that with enough patient and reasoned repetition on ours, we may just get you to understand and appreciate why the Nations Cup should continue largely as is...:)

    To address two points you made...

    One - This is slightly chicken and egg. But it would be great to know what came first; holding the majority of tournaments on home soil, with the majority of teams, or those teams being in some pure fair way, the 'best' over the course of time. With another world cup around the corner we can spare ourselves the back and forth and just let the results speak for themselves. But I think the 2000s both globally (WC 2002) and in Europe itself (EC 2004) showed that change is afoot in world football, and that with more real and fair access has come more equality in terms of performance and results.

    Again world cup around the corner, lets see what happens. But I think the trend is clear, and I don't think using decades of history where Europe had the majority of participants and hosted it almost all the time gives us the basis to draw the conclusions that you do.
    So for example Egypt would not be such a 'flawed' example of sustainable football development that is good for Africa, on the basis of their world cup participation and success (or lack thereof). As an aside Amir Zaki was able to go directly from the Egyptian league to the Premiership without doing too badly no?

    Two - This is not like "Colchester, Bristol Rovers and Yeovil telling the Premier League what to do" these are the nations of a confederation and the peoples they represent advocating for themselves. This is not just a football thing, this is a human thing. I mean I hope you believe that despite whatever performance or achievements we may have had in the past our interests, beliefs, hopes and dreams are the equal of any others?

    aaargh that almost felt like part diatibe part dogma, back to the football.

    I think holding it in odd number years would be beneficial for us, but I have seen nothing here that convinces me that the demerits outweigh the merits in holding it every two years. That said negotiation on how often we hold it should definitely happen, especially if we can use that to get a Euro wide winter break for the tournament.

    #88 and #89 had great posts too.


  • Comment number 92.

    Hey #91, very good post, hopefully you will be more active here in the future! Its good to have ideas passed around in this manner, as im much more likely to be swayed by reasonable discussion :) Hopefully all the continents can sit around a table and hammer out a deal which is best for Africa, Europe, Asia the Americas etc both internationally and domestically. I think concessions can and eventually will be made on all fronts. I hope so. Wishing you all the best for 2010 and hopefully we will 'lock horns' again in the upcoming blogs :) Cheers!

  • Comment number 93.

    The whole football structure will have to be reorganised in my view if Africa is to be forced to reschedule the Cup of Nations to every four years. To start with at least 16(not sure about the numbers here) European countries take part in a competative tournament every two years ie World Cup and Euros. Africa however only has 5 guaranteed places at world cup which means the other 47 or so countries will only get a chance to have a competative tournament every 4 years which is Cup of Nations right? Lets not forget CAF have already amalgamated the world cup and Cup of Nations qualifications where there coincide rather than hold seperate qualifications for Cup of Nations and World Cup everytime. As far as i know the EPL is the only big league in Europe that dont have a winter break. perhaps its time they consider having one. Bring on Angola 2010! i cant wait. Since Zim failed to qualify (AGAIN) I will be cheering on the hosts!!! Happy new year ya'all

  • Comment number 94.

    CAN, the Cup of African Nations, might be be a source of concern and frustration to owners, sponsors and officials of the European clubs that have to release players every other January. However, the up side could be that the gaps they leave give substitutes greater chances to play and even improve their game.
    In any case, the trend is largely uniform, across the board. That is, many or most big clubs are somehow affected; just as injury does.
    It could also be another form of sacrifice by western countries towads the development of football overseas; a complement of the trade and aid often asked of, say, the EU or G8 nations. Sport can divert attention and human participation from conflict, as it may have done when Cote d'Ivoire qualified for international tournaments while the country was in intra-national violence that even caused France to send in soldiers.

  • Comment number 95.

    Happy New Year to All
    Phil @90.

    My view is that, if an average to good African footballer can earn a really good salary by the economic standards of his country (less tax constraints, more affordable cost of living, etc) it would make sense for him to stay home and play as the Egyptians have proven. That develops the game at home. By "pittance" I mean the money a player gets from Plymouth cannot be the same as one earned by a guy who plays for Chelsea, Barecelona or even PSG and Lyon.

    Secondly, when I talk of organisation and development - I also mean training facilities, etc. Africans should be working towards such facilities as well; so they do not need a kid to leave home (at age 17) to Vietnam, China or Plymouth to have basic level development. That's why in my earlier argument I spoke of experts to develop the systems which would then be taken over by Africans.

    I expected the argument that Egypt has not made it to the World Cup. #91 provided an argument. In addition:

    a)Remember that the teams with tons of European based talent are the very ones who have not been able to make history to the point that other continents can sit and discuss on equal terms with Africa. (I am paraphrasing you there).

    b)The Cameroon team that played the quarter finals of the World Cup in 1990 were home based. Since then Cameroon have often come with all "professional" teams but have never crossed the group phase of the World Cup. They (Cameroon all Europe based) were unable to beat Egypt at home which prevented them from making it to the World Cup in 2006.

    c)Tunisia also has a well developed local football. They had very few Europe-based players in their teams that qualified them to the World Cup in 1998 and 2002. By 2006, they were developing an over-reliance on Europe based stock. Today there are more Europe based players in the national squad and what has happened? They are not going to appear at the World Cup in 2010 like Egypt.

    d)Senegal and its Europe based players have slumped since their first World Cup in 2002. With hundreds of them in France and the likes of Dioufs, Pape Bouba and the crew at Stoke, etc they failed for the second time to qualify for the World Cup. They were held down by the Gambia (mainly local players).

    As you can see the using participation at the World Cup as the measuring rod can go both ways. Don't you think?

    Let's imagine the 50+ countries in Africa with developed football - professional teams, facilities, coaching. Imagine that the bulk of the players stay put in their countries or move within Africa depending on which leagues are bigger. Can you imagine the level of the CAF Champions League or the CAF CUP (their Europa League)? Don't you think that the level would not develop to that of the South Americans and provide competitive players for their national teams?

    I am in no way saying Africans should NOT move to Europe. No. I am not saying players don't improve by playing in top European leagues. Far from that. I simply believe, the development of the African game has to be taken in a holistic way (and at the root) - not based on the number of Africans playing in top European leagues.

    Sorry, I'm long again.

  • Comment number 96.

    I have seen comments relating to one Jonas Sakuwaha, a Zambian football player who requested to be excused from national duty on grounds that he wants to cement his place at his French club. This has been used as one good reason why the Africa Cup of Nations should be played to suit the European leagues. Well, maybe. But have you actually followed Zambian football in recent years?

    The truth is, Zambia has no realistic chance of winning the Africa Cup. It makes more sense for Jonas Sakuwaha to concentrate on developing his professional career than come home to play for a team whose target is only the second round of the Nations Cup. If Zambia had a realistic chance of winning the Cup, Sakuwaha would have been in Angola as we speak.

    Another issue that has been raised in some of the comments was whether it was more important for African players to be at the World Cup or at the African Cup of Nations. Take Drogba, for example, what are the chances that he will have his hands on the World Cup? Nada! What are the chances that he will lift the Africa Cup? Pretty high! What is more important for him, the World Cup or the Africa Cup? The answer must be obvious.

    Europe should stop bulldozing Africa. Sit down, have a realistic dialogue and reach an understanding. If Europe continues fighting Africa through the media, hey, this war will go on for ever!

    You want changes to the African football calender, come talk to us. Don't talk to journalists! Simple and klaar!

  • Comment number 97.

    As an african I think this issue is now quite simple. Should the AFCON be held every two years ? Inequivocably yes, because African football needs evey bit of competition available in order to grow. No discussion about this.

    Should it be moved from December/January to, say, June/July in odd years between the world cups? Yes, because, again, that is good for African football and its players. The AFCON would have much more visibility and exposure, i.e. a bigger worldwide television audience, hence more revenue from advertising, and then it would put an end to the country vs. club row in releasing the players for the competition.

    The only problem to solve would be to avoid overlapping with the European Cup and the Copa America,which is not a big issue in itself. Player burn out is a problem also faced by South-American and European players.

    CAF´s argument that weather considerations are the main reason for keeping the competition in December/January is simply ridiculous. If the competition were to be held in Maghreb countries in June/July, games could be scheduled mostly from early evening to avoid the opressing afternoon heat.

    Sub-Saharan countries are the vast majority and should raise the debate in the next CAF Congress meetings and force a change. Issa Hayatou apparently is not willing to face the strong opposition from Egypt, Tunisia, Moroccco and the other North African countries.

  • Comment number 98.

    I think the Europeans should stop thinking about money, stop being greedy, stop feeling superior and concentrate on human well being. Do you know how many games were cancelled today in Europe because of the weather? Very many. Winter is the time to stop all outdoor games and for indoor games to take over. Maybe the Europeans should learn from the North Americans where all outdoor games are completed by the time winter comes and the indoor games like Basketball and Hockey take over. They cann't go and bully Africans to change their tradition because of their selfish interests? January is the best time to have the African competition when the weather condition is appropriate unlike what the greedy business men in Europe have. According to God, It is now Winter in Europe and very cold and there shouldn't be any outdoor games taking place except in Africa where He made the weather suitable for outdoor games at this time of the year.

  • Comment number 99.

    Frozenis- God chosen
    PAPA- Great one
    Glen Alban-Great thinking
    Sajui Lahiri-Great one
    Amanda - The beautiful
    Nick- Great thinking
    Akaexpensesfiddler-#1 strong man
    Olamide Akinsete-Great one Neil Shortt-Money eye
    Parag-Proud one Red and black-D incarnation
    JL Pagano-Good
    Shubhanshu-Go India Go
    David Walsh-A great Zoulou
    The Gloamay-Reasonable one
    Nicholas-Real Zoulou
    Torontoed-Disappointing for (multiculturalism)
    Abedi Pele-House slave
    Monono-House slave
    Nick – The rest of the world cares except you
    Kingkossoko –The rest of the world has changed. I don’t know about you
    Ilikid- The world has changed slavery and colonialism is over
    Mayoite901- Business deals are sometimes stupid
    Neil Shortt-Money eye
    Red and black- D incarnation

    Johnny: Europe can't tell other continents how to run their business. Those days of slavery, colonialism are gone. African soccer players are not controlled by the corrupt African Governments left in place anymore. They play for their country when they want and not when the masters want.

  • Comment number 100.

    Though it is easy to say, these players are exploited by their rich agents and teams, how do the numbers of Africans actually stack up?

    This is not a conclusive barometer by any means, but check out leading scorer's tables around the European continent. I know, in this case we are talking largely about strikers. It does not exactly help the discussion if their presence is exaggerated. They fair well in places, say like France and Belgium, but what is the overall picture? As well as per strength of the leagues?

    This is just interesting data but I admit, does not prove anything. On the other hand, I think we've heard some arrogant statements as if the leagues depended on them. They are also, making a good salary at the same time and obviously, taking samples below, we are talking about big differences in quality between Europe's top leagues and then, a few other top flight leagues in other nations.

    England, top 15 scorers, 1 African
    Scotland, 0 in top 15 scorers
    Spain, 0 in top 15 scorers
    Germany, 1 in top 15 scorers
    Italy, 1 in top 15 scorers
    France, 5 in top 15 scorers, 3 Sub Saharan, 2 Morrocans
    Netherlands, 0 in top 15
    Belgium 5 in top 15, 4 Sub Saharan, 1 Morroco
    Denmark, 3 in top 15, first Nigerian in the lists I see and a Kenyan, who there are not that many of in the foreign leagues.
    Russia, data unavailable
    Poland, 1 in top 15
    Norway, data unavailable
    Czech Republic, 1 in top 15

    Also, start comparing these numbers to South Americans playing, players from the region of the former Yugoslavia who seem to fill the rosters in Germany Etc. Players from these regions go there often because of the way the domestic market is at home as well.

    Just some food for thought.


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