Cape to Cairo: Trekking 10,000 km for the African Cup of Nations

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Alvin Zhakata in Khartoum, Sudan (Source: Alvin Zhakata)

What would you do for the love of football? How far would you go for a chance to watch the biggest continental football event of the year? Will you cross mountains, rivers, plains, and valleys? Well, Alvin Zhakata, a Zimbabwean man, trekked 10,000 km to cheer for the Zimbabwean warriors at the Africa Cup of Nations 2019 in Cairo this past month. He traveled from Cape Town to Cairo by road enduring visa delays, internet blackouts and revolutionary protests all for the love of football. It took him a total of 44 days; he missed his team who were eliminated in the first round, but the CAF president gave him a VVIP ticket to the final between Algeria and Senegal last Friday.

Cecil Rhodes with his transafrican train project from Cairo to Cape Town - the most imperialist ever
Cecil Rhodes with his transafrican train project from Cairo to Cape Town – the most imperialist ever

What Zhakata did, is no simple feat. He did what even the infamous Cecil Rhodes could not achieve: go from Cape Town at the tip of Africa, to Cairo at the very top of the continent. For those who do not know: the words Cape to Cairo immediately bring to mind the European Scramble for AfricaCecil Rhodes and his ambition for Great Britain to control the whole of Africa from Cape to Cairo, and of course to link all British colonies via the Cape to Cairo Railway crossing Africa from south to north by rail. The Cape to Cairo Road was also planned to roughly connect the same countries; however, it is not praticable today, and has remained more of a dream or rather a possibility, which needs revamping.

What Zhakata did is not just a show of undying love of a fan for football, but also a political statement to all African leaders: we need roads to connect each other; we need better visa system, or rather a borderless Africa for better and safer travel, increased trade among each other: we need a united Africa. Zhakata’s statement is one of Unity,… African Unity. Enjoy the excerpt below from BBC.


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Africa Cup of Nations 2019 in Cairo, Egypt

A Zimbabwean nurse travelled from Cape Town to Cairo by road enduring visa delays, internet blackouts and revolutionary protests all for the love of football.

Alvin “Aluvah” Zhakata had intended to make it to Egypt for the opening match of the Africa Cup of Nations on 21 June, when Zimbabwe’s Warriors took on the hosts.

But he missed the match because his epic journey took much longer than expected.

Yet thanks to those following his adventures on Twitter, he has now become a celebrity – and the African football boss has presented him with a ticket to this Friday’s final between Algeria and Senegal.

When the 32-year-old arrived in the Egyptian capital last week, completing his 44-day 10,000km (6,200-mile) trip, he said it was well worth it despite some nerve-wracking experiences.

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Cape to Cairo (Source: BBC)

His other more sobering discovery was that “Africa is not friendly to Africans” – in terms of visas and borders. “And some of the visa fees for African countries, they are actually more expensive than visa fees when you want to go to Europe – and the waiting period takes too long. “I believe we need a borderless Africa.”

The journey began on 27 May on a route passing through South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.

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CAF president recognizing Alvin Zhakata for his feat, and presenting him with a VVIP ticket to the AFCON 2019 final

[…] His one disappointment has been the performance of the Warriors, who crashed out in the first round – amidst rows over pay.

But he says his achievement – which has become one of the biggest stories of this Africa Cup of Nations tournament – shows it pays to “dare to dream“.

If you have a passion for something, go for it. Pursue it until you get it. It may be delayed, but delay is not denial – be patient and be strong, because the harder the battle, the sweeter the victory,” he says.

The Fennecs of Algeria Win the African Cup of Nations 2019

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The Fennecs of Algeria celebrate winning AFCON 2019 (The Guardian)

This past Friday, the Fennecs of Algeria defeated the Lions of Teranga of Senegal 1-0 to become Africa’s new champions. This was their second title since 1990.  Even though the final was not the desert foxes’s best game, they clearly were the best team of the tournament. Baghdad Bounedjah‘s early goal propelled Algeria to a first Africa Cup of Nations title in 29 years with a fiery 1-0 victory over Senegal in Friday’s final in Cairo.


Algeria’s coach Djamel Belmadi and Senegal’s coach Aliou Cisse

I would like to salute both coaches.  The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations was the first time in over 20 years when both finalists were led by African coaches: Algeria by Djamel Belmadi and Senegal by Aliou Cissé. This should be the norm, rather than the exception. Coincidentally, both coaches grew up in the same suburb of Paris, are the same age only separated by one day, and played against each other at youth level. They came head-to-head in a league game between Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain in February 2001, and then with their national teams two months later. Again African teams should be led by Africans… No wonder Egypt performed so poorly at the AFCON 2019 (this is the first time, they were not led by a local).

Flag of Madagascar

The revelation of this tournament was the Barea of Madagascar which for their first participation ever to the African Cup of Nations, performed extremely well, and went as far as the quarter finals. For their successful performance, their country’s president knighted the whole team.

Overall, AFCON 2019 brought us a lot of joy and tears, and we applaud the winners of this year’s tournament Algeria.