Nigeria wins the African Cup of Nations 2013

Super Eagles lifting the trophy
Super Eagles lifting the trophy

I watched Nigeria’s victory yesterday with great delight. I must admit that after they defeated Cote dIvoire in quarter-finals. I already felt that Nigeria would be the winners and honestly, the Stallions of Burkina Faso were no match to the Super Eagles of Nigeria.  I am also delighted because this was Nigerias first victory since 1994 (19 years), and Stephen Keshi has become the first man to win the African Cup of Nations both as a player and as a coach. Truly the victory should be dedicated to him, and his hard work. He started coaching Togo and qualified them to the world cup  in 2010, and once the Togolese were qualified they sacked him to hire a European coach. Keshi went on to coach Mali, and now his beloved country Nigeria. At first the Nigerian federation did not want to give him the job, but it is hard to deny Keshi’s greatness. They finally gave him the job, and then did not pay him for 2 months prior to the cup (the Nigerian federation would have never dared doing that to a European coach).

Stephen Keshi, Nigeria's coach
Stephen Keshi, Nigeria’s coach

I am truly happy for Keshi, who, this week again, mentioned the fact that Africans coaches were just as good as European coaches, and could manage African teams and lead them to greatness. He did just that to a team which had known no real success since 1994 he redeemed Nigerias super eagles, and showed to everyone that Africans could and should trust African coaches just like the Egyptians used to trust Hassan Shehata who led them to three successive African Nationss cup (2006, 2008, and 2010). Truly, I dedicate this victory to Stephen Keshi, and to all the African coaches who love their country and only dream of being given the chance to take their countries to greatest heights.

Just for fun, somebody said on BBC, that “whenever Cameroon is not at the cup, Nigeria wins“… I didn’t know that we were the “bête noire” of Nigeria. I guess everyone knows their strongest opponents… even footballers!

Zambia wins the African Cup of Nations

Zambia's national team celebrate their win of the African Cup of Nations (Source: AFP)
Zambia’s national team celebrate their win of the African Cup of Nations (Source: Issouf Sanogo/AFP)

Wow, I started watching the finals yesterday rooting for Zambia to win against Côte d’Ivoire… I had watched them throughout the cup, and the last one as well, and knew that they were a young strong team to reckon with.  Throughout the game, I prayed that the memory of those Zambian players who died in a plane crash in 1993 in Gabon be honored.  At the time when the crash occurred, the Zambian team was on its way to Senegal from Libreville (Gabon) to play a world-cup qualifier.  We, Africans, were all stunned, and cried as an entire country had lost their heroes.  One of the only survivors was Kalusha Bwalya who would have been on the plane during the crash, but had found his own way to Senegal (he was playing for PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands, and had to make separate arrangements to meet the team in Dakar).  We watched and cried with Kalusha who had lost all his teammates.

Zambia's national team, the Chipolopolo
Zambia’s national team, the Chipolopolo

Imagine rebuilding an entire mature team who had just crashed? It will take a lot of years to foster the same talent and train them.  The country had just lost a generation of extremely talented football players.  Kalusha went on to become coach of Zambia (at the 2006 CAN), and is currently the president of the football association of his country. It is extremely symbolic that Zambia won last night in Libreville (Gabon) against Côte d’Ivoire (who played outstandingly well), only a few hundred metres inland from the crash site.  The Chipolopolo (the Copper Bullets) dedicated their victory to the ones who lost their lives in the 1993 tragedy.

The African Cup of Nations

The Africa Cup of Nations/ La Coupe d'Afrique des Nations
The Africa Cup of Nations/ La Coupe d'Afrique des Nations

The quarter-finals to the African Cup of Nations (Coupe d’Afrique des Nations) tournament took place yesterday.  The African Cup of Nations is a highly followed soccer tournament to which all African nations participate.  In essence, all African nations play qualifiers which ensures that about 16 nations on the continent will get a chance to play at the African Cup of Nations.  Since 1968, the tournament has taken place every two years, and every even year during the month of January and ends around mid-February: one month of intense fun.  If you are an avid soccer fan, as I am, you would love watching some of the greatest African teams and stars at their best (sometimes, at their worst too).  Recently, the pressure of big money FIFA has forced a change into the schedule of the CAN, forcing the tournament to now take place every odd years, so as ‘not to clash with the soccer world cup‘ (this change was forced by European big clubs/leagues to whom many African players belong).

CAN 2012
CAN 2012

The African Cup of Nations (CAN) tournament was first held in 1957 in Sudan, and only three countries participated: Egypt, Sudan, and EthiopiaEgypt has won the cup seven times, making it the record holder.  In recent years, Egypt won the cup three consecutive times. Cameroon and Ghana follow behind Egypt and have both won the tournament four times.  Cameroon and Egypt are not participating at this year’s African Cup of Nations, but Ghana is… and there is a strong chance that they might win the cup this year.  This year’s tournament, the 2012 CAN, is held in two countries: Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.  I believe that the final this year will be between Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire: the Black Stars vs the Elephants.  Although my heart is with the Elephants of Didier Drogba, I have slight edge towards Ghana of Michael Essien.

My dream is to see an African cup of Nations where all the coaches of African teams would be African…  I might have to wait a long time to see this, but in the meantime enjoy!  Mali just knocked out Gabon in penalty kicks and will be facing Côte d’Ivoire in semi-finals (this promises to be a good game).  The face-off to the other semi-final will be Ghana-Zambia, as Ghana defeated Tunisia 2-1.  Let’s wait and see!