The AFCON group stages are in their last stretch now with Group A done and dusted. Some key moments worthy of mention have found their way into this piece.

Bye Bye Gabon

Gabon becomes the first major casualty to leave the tournament. They join only three other host nations not to have qualified from the group stages. The last time a host nation failed to qualify from its group at an AFCON competition was in 1994 ,when Tunisia exited in the preliminary stages. Coincidentally, Tunisia was drafted in to replace original hosts Zaire, same as the current host Gabon, who was chosen ahead of Algeria and Ghana to replace Libya as hosts of the AFCON 2017. Must be the curse of the replacement host nations.

Poor quality of pitches

The quality of pitches at the AFCON tournament has been very poor. The pitch-related injury count keeps mounting up, with at least 5 players ruled out of the rest of the tournament due to injury. Burkina Faso head into the quarter-finals with only 21 players, losing 2 players out to injuries. Egypt is probably the worst hit, not by the number of injured players but by virtue of the role of those players in the team setup. As things stand, they have only one fit goalkeeper, out of a possible 3.  Were anything to happen to him, the team would have to convert one of their outfield players to man the post. CAF is sticking to Article 72 of its Regulations of the African Cup of Nations which says that: a final list of maximum 23 players should be submitted ten days before the start of the tournament. Additionally, a player on the final list cannot be replaced unless seriously injured at the latest, 24 hours before the beginning of the first match of his team. (CAF regulations)

The poor quality of pitches and the likelihood of picking up injuries is one major reason why many African stars based in Europe turn down national team call-ups. CAF should pay considerable attention to pitches to ensure that the quality of the African game is perpetuated.

Love for the Black Stars

A subject dear to Ghanaians, and also bound to generate divided opinions is the Black Stars. The team was given virtually no chance going into the tournament with almost all Ghanaians writing off “the benchwarmers” as they are affectionately referred to by a majority of Ghanaian football fans. This is because a majority of the team sit on their benches back in their teams in Europe. Unfazed by this, the team has set out to win back the love of Ghanaians, and seem to be on the right course, making it to the quarter-finals with only 2 games played.

My opinion is that the only way to fully win back the love of all. Ghanaians would be to win the tournament for the first time in 35 years. One would think that this is too basic a requirement but that is exactly what Ghanaians are waiting for. Deep down Ghanaians care for the team. Most people point out to the days of old where the Black Stars games would cause the nation to come to a standstill, with people converging behind a television set out in public. (Source: BBC)

I believe this should not be used as a measure to judge the love people have for the team, as more people have TVs in their homes now as compared to then. The fact that spectators are not seen watching games on the streets doesn’t mean their games are not being followed. Conversely, the fact that the team has been trending on Ghanaian social media before, during and after match days show that people care and want the best for them. The threesixtygh team (also known Tribe360Gh on social media) wishes the team all the best in their quest to win their 5th AFCON trophy. May the force be with them.

WRITER – AYELEY COMMODORE-MENSAH – threesixtGh writer/contributor.

Gabon team photo via KHALED DESOUKI (AFP PHOTO)


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