There is a whirlwind blowing in African football as we speak, the new Executive committee of the Confederation of African Football are stamping their authority on the continent’s game. Whilst it be necessary to carve a niche for yourselves to as much as possible be a huge departure from the previous administration, it is important to thread cautiously. As the saying goes ”too many cooks spoil the broth”, well the same can be said for too many changes to a system that worked, maybe the system was not perfect, maybe it just needs a few tweaks here and there.
Now the Ahmad Ahmad led CAF have just made some changes to the African game which for me are quite radical and a little desperate. Why do I say desperate, well from all indications it as if this executive committee are so keen and eager to push aside the gains made under the long period of the Hayatou reign. Love or hate the man, you cannot thrash the achievements or strides African football made under his leadership. Lets take a look at some of the proposed changes this new executive committee have rubber stamped:
24 Nations for AFCON from 2019
Call me ”Old school”, but I still prefer the AFCON with just 8 teams. This guarantees you proper representation with eight of the best teams on the continent. Some how I adjusted to and decided to live with having 16 teams at African’s show piece tournament. I am a firm believer in if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, why are we going to 24 teams? Even development of the game across the continent is a lame excuse as far as I am concerned. Some would say the UEFA have increased the number of participants attending the Euros and that FIFA are also considering increasing the numbers for the World Cup. Truth be told, we cannot compare the development of the European game to that of the African game; they are miles apart.
From a competitive perspective, increasing participants to 24 definitely reduces the level of competitiveness of the AFCON. Now some conspiracy theorist believe that this guarantees Nigeria’s participation at the next AFCON after missing the last two editions, so Amaju Pinnick has done something good with his CAF Executive Committee membership according to many observers. With 24 teams expected at the next AFCON, we are more assured of more bore fest at the competition. If we complained about some of the group stage matches under the 16 team format, I assure you it will only get worst. If the conspiracy theories are anything to go by, Ahmad Ahmad may have also just found a way to ensure his country Madagascar have a chance of qualifying for their first AFCON in their history. Take a look at the Group A standings after the first set of games played, Madagascar are currently second behind Senegal, so all they need to do is finish second and Cameroon here they come. Also, spare a thought for the countries in Group B where Cameroon as host have been squeezed in, this short changes the other countries in the group because the Host qualifies automatically, hence only one other team qualifies from that group. It can’t be fair if two teams finish in qualification positions whilst the host finish outside those places, so the team in second loses out after putting in so much hard-work.
From a logistics stand point, it is quite unfair to increase a 16 team tournament to 24 teams without considering the financial implication on the host. If you ask me; this is another attempt to rubbish the Issa Hayatou regime, just imagine Morocco are already showing interest to step in as possible host if Cameroon cannot handle hosting a tournament of that size. Are we not killing the countries we aim to develop by burdening them with such an impulsive decision? Well, I strongly feel there should have been a bedding period for this enhancement, maybe from 2021 not immediately.
Sticking to two years frequency
Like it or not, you can agree or disagree; many African countries are struggling economically. We have had many incidences of countries pull out of hosting Africa’s showpiece football event due to economic and financial reasons. So I ask, why increase the number of participants for the tournament without increasing the number of years for preparation. This decision just restricts the number of countries who may be able to host the tournament, where is the development in that? I worry for a decision that doesn’t have any merits or balance, decisions of this kind should be aimed at creating an environment where more countries can aspire to host the competition, with considerations given to developing the game’s infrastructure and competitive level.
Aligning the Calendar and AFCON Schedule
So here’s another decision I am not happy with, we all know why the AFCON has always been a January/February; this is a period that seems more acceptable in terms of the weather condition across the continent as against June/July which is the peak of the rainy season and winter in Southern Africa. Now if you ask me, this is a decision that strikes me as trying to please Europe; I say this because of the relationship between this CAF executive committee and the current FIFA President, who was previously a UEFA strong man. If you consider the changes that’s going around now in the game, it seems more driven like we are aiming towards a consolidation of the worldwide game, some kind of standardization of Football.
Why are we aligning the football calendar with UEFA & FIFA? Doesn’t add up for me really, because some member countries of UEFA don’t run a calendar from August to May. We all have our peculiarities along weather and socio economic factors, so why align with a continent that obviously have many differences from us. Remember all the controversy surrounding the Qatar World Cup of 2022 and the timing because of the weather, what are we talking about really? Embrace the differences, don’t seek to adopt and merge these differences.