Wednesday,20 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1230, (22 - 28 January 2015)
Wednesday,20 February, 2019
Issue 1230, (22 - 28 January 2015)

Ahram Weekly

All African kick off

The 2015 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations finally started this week, but in the absence of the Egyptian team are the country’s fans still interested, asks Abeer Anwar

Al-Ahram Weekly

Equatorial Guinea kicked off the Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday, only two months after stepping in as hosts after the Confederation of African Football refused the petition of the original hosts, Morocco, to postpone the event because of fears over the spread of the Ebola virus.

Sixteen teams divided into four groups will be competing in the 22-day competition that started on 17 January and will last to 8 February. The groups are:

Group A: Burkina Faso, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon

Group B: Zambia, DR Congo, Tunisia, Cape Verde

Group C: Senegal, South Africa, Ghana, Algeria

Group D: Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali, Cameroon

Fears about Equatorial Guinea’s readiness to stage the tournament started to surface when Congo coach Claude Le Roy revealed that five out of his 35-squad members did not have accommodation.

For their opening match against Equatorial Guinea, LeRoy was also angry that his side had been stuck on a bus on their way to the opening. “Usually our journey to the stadium takes 12 minutes, today in 40 C and with no air conditioning it took 65 minutes,” he said.

 He suggested that more could have been done to clear the way for the team and called for the continent’s football governing body to take action.

Burkina Faso coach Paul Put also criticised the facilities, saying the event should have been delayed until June.

Preparations at the venues and host cities for the tournament were ongoing even as the opening ceremony was about to start. Al-Ahram also reported that an activist had been arrested in Bata, one of the four cities hosting the games, for distributing leaflets urging people not to go to the stadiums to avoid contagion.

Fearing that the stadiums would be empty, Equatorial Guinea president Theodore Obiang Nguema personally bought 40,000 tickets for different games and distributed them to the public. 

The question remains of whether Egyptian fans will want to watch the games in the absence of the Pharaohs, the only team to have won the tournament seven times.

Mohamed Essam, a fan, told the Weekly that he was interested in watching the games “even if Egypt is missing, as I can always watch the performance of the Arab countries, especially the Algerian team that has been attacking Egypt for having the larger number of titles.”

“It is also a good chance to watch the new stars that are starting to appear like Sofiane Feghouli, Islam Slimani and Yacine Brahimi who are following in the footsteps of famous African stars like Drogba and Eto’o,” Essam said.

Algeria will not have an easy time in the games as it will be facing the three giants of Ghana, Senegal and South Africa.

However, Tarek Galal, also a fan, said that he would not be watching the competition as it would be dull without Egypt. “Instead I will be following the Asian Cup and the English and Spanish premier leagues as they will be more interesting and exciting for me,” he said.

Fan Ahmed Hassan expressed his interest in following the matches to the extent that he had booked a place at a cafe to be able to watch the matches live. “I like to watch the matches live as I feel I am attending the competition. It is thrilling to watch the newly evolving African stars that are playing in international clubs and are professionals abroad. I enjoy watching the African matches although I will miss the Egyptian national team,” he explained.

The 30th edition of the Cup would be more exciting and eye-catching as most of the participating teams had gone for youthful squads compared to previous editions, another Egyptian fan said. “I also feel proud when I see how African players and African teams have improved,” he added.

OLDEST PLAYER: TP Mazembe and DR Congo goalie Robert Muteba Kidiaba is the oldest player in the Africa Cup of Nations Cup in 2015. The veteran will celebrate his 39th birthday on 1 February 2015. Although Egypt is absent from the competition, Egyptian Hossam Hassan holds the record for the oldest player in the Cup at 39 years, 5 months and 24 days.

YOUNGEST PLAYER: Third-choice Cameroon goalie Pierre Sylvain Abogo is the youngest player in the championship. The captain of the Cameroon U-17 team turns 17 on 27 January 2015.

MOST YOUTHFUL EVENT: Considered the most youthful Africa Cup of Nations yet, of the 368 players present in Equatorial Guinea only 26 are over 30 and 21 are younger than 20.  

SEVENTH APPEARANCE: Mali captain Seydou Keita is a household name in the Africa Cup of Nations. Since making his debut in 2002, he has appeared in the 2004, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013 editions. The current championship is the seventh time the Mali captain is appearing at the showpiece event. Keita shares the record with former Ivorian goalkeeper Alain Gouamene, but he is still behind Cameroon legend Rigobert Song, who holds the record with Ivorian trio Boubacar “Copa” Barry, Abib Kolo Toure and Siaka Tiene (having appeared in the 2002, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013 Cups).

TUNISIA EXCELS: Tunisia is the only team to have participated in the final tournament and all eight successive games since 2000. Since 2000, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Zambia have played in seven championships, and South Africa, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mali and Senegal have made six appearances. Algeria and DR Congo have been in five championships, Guinea four, Gabon three, and Cape Verde, Congo and Equatorial Guinea one each.

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