TALENTED SQUAD: The Ivory Coast have failed to live up to their potential
SLOWLY BUT surely African football and footballers are gaining respect.
There was a time when the Cup of Nations was seen as nothing more than a private affair for Africa’s footballers. But it is much, much more than that now.
While the tournament, being held in South Africa this time round, seemingly is an irritation to the respective managers and coaches in the English Football League, it is an absolute shoo-in that the same coaches will have scouts in place in South Africa in a bid to unearth the next Didier Drogba or Demba Ba.
The world usually looks at the African countries as unequal, third-world partners. But on the football pitch, the African states take a back seat to no one.
Football can be a source of national and continental pride as well as economic advancement. Participation in football provides individuals with an opportunity to set and achieve goals, maintain their personal fitness, enjoy the comradeship of team-mates, and potentially, make a career of the game.
The next few weeks in South Africa will be another positive showcase for all that is good about football in Africa.
The Cup of Nations is vital if Africans are to compete as equals on the world football stage.
A look at the history books confirms that steady progress is being made with African nations reaching the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Cup, winning FIFA junior World Cups, and winning Olympic gold medals. The Cup of Nations continues to be the ‘training ground’ which provides the aforementioned global success.
Football is now big business, and over the years, the Cup of Nations has positioned itself nicely in the money stakes, and African players haven’t been left out in the magic of it all.
The likes of Drogba, Yaya Toure, Samuel Eto’o and Asamoah Gyan are amongst the best paid players in the world - and rightly so as their talents deserve rich reward.
New names and heroes will emerge over the next few weeks.
Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and South Africa will start as favourites.
But as Zambia’s 2012 success proved, there is no sure thing in football.
If Ivory Coast’s Yaya Toure can find his club form, and find back up from the most talented squad in the tourna ment, then the Elephants’ so called golden generation might just deliver after umpteen false dawns.