Opinion: 5 Reasons AFCON 2021 Is The Worst Edition Ever
This edition of Africa's biggest continental tournament just SUCKS!!
When CAF president Patrice Motsepe insisted that AFCON would be held a year late in January of 2022, nobody could expect just how bad things may have turned out for a competition that is older than the Euros yet seems to have little going for it in prestige.
Motsepe, and Cameroonian Federation president Samuel Eto'o, fought everyone and resisted all the pressure from FIFA to organize the African Cup of Nations in January 2022 despite no real guarantees being given.
Somehow, the tournament went on and the early support for Samuel Eto'o from African federations, players, and legends faded away as the competition unfolded.
Everyday there seems to be a new low for the tournaments, with some fans in Africa even suggesting they want to just "get it over with".
From health concerns, to logistics and all around disasters, this tournament might be the worst outing of an African continental competition ever, and here are 5 reasons why I think that way.
Confusion till the last minute!:
As mentioned in the introduction, Patrice Motsepe and Samuel Eto'o eventually got their wish, but it wasn't plain sailing to get AFCON organized in the first place.
At a certain point in late 2021, rumors started to circulate that COVID, a lack of logistics, and some stadiums not being ready could threaten the tournament in Cameroon. Morrocco and WC hosts Qatar were among the names rumored but a hard pass from Motsepe and Eto'o kept it in Cameroon.
This confusion had other levels to it, as teams couldn't prepare properly and have friendlies.
Add to that the fact that top European clubs had so many objections and issues with their African players leaving in the middle of a Premier League season. The likes of Watford's Ismaila Sarr and Emmanuel Dennis were embroiled in a big executive debacle with the Senegalese and Nigerian FA respectively.
The uncertainty didn't stop there as Zimbabwe were nearly eliminated from the tournament, as their FA was overthrown with governmental meddling against FIFA laws. But a lack of quick action from FIFA meant that they played the tournament which they eventually left.
A logistical disaster!:
An astrophysicist doesn't have to tell you that to organize a massive tournament you need full control of a massive logistics project.
However, despite have 5 years to prepare, Cameroon couldn't get the logistics ready on time. Reports were emerging that Cameroonian authorities banned any media coverage or photos about the stadiums, some of them were still being prepared a week to go off the competition.
Other massive issues that have stood out include hotels being uncomfortable and badly serviced, Algerian players using a mini-bus to travel back to their hotel, an ACL injured-player having to travel to a different city to have RMI, and of course, stadiums.
Whether it is the pitch, or the surrounding area having no service whatsoever, or a lack of security, Cameroon' stadiums have proven to be below-par with Limbe's in particular looking more like a horse field than a football pitch.
This is definitely not a good look for a country that fought right and left to host the tournament, and also a bad image to be given to the world of football who are scrutinizing every bit of news coming from Cameroon.
There was of course the tragedy that occurred on January 24th as well that took the lives of at least 8 people. Initial reports re-examined concerns raised about the Olembe stadium from a few years ago.
COVID: AFCON variant!!:
Well, as sarcastic as the title might be, it kind of makes a point with everything considered.
This entry ties directly into the games, and for that reason should get a separate place. Despite the best efforts (apparently at least) by CAF to maintain a healthy competition, COVID seems to be rampant.
However, loads of doubts were cast over the credibility of CAF sponsored testing because of two major incidents.
First, Tunisia having 12 players (allegedly) testing positive ahead of their game against Gambia in the group stages. Before their game against Nigeria, tests were made with 7 players testing negative, and 5 positives. Tunisian FA counter-tested and 11 of those were negative, but CAF did not acknowledge these tests done privately and decided to consider them useless.
And then, the Comores scandal. Now to be fair, they didn't stand a chance against Cameroon, but even so the hosts didn't need to alter regulations on matchday evening. Comoros had 12 cases including their two and only GKs in the squad, but were forced to play the game with their left-back as a makeshift Goalkeeper. Despite the negative tests returned by one of the two goalies, laws (for some conspicuous reason) were modified so that players who test negative will still be isolated for 5 days. This, of course, is a scandal even regardless of any conspiracy theories, because at the best of cases it is completely suspicious.
Tunisia playing the group matches in a WAR ZONE!:
All the previous reasons to one side, this might be the biggest off-field danger ever.
Thankfully, from now onwards, no games will be played at Limbe, but it was a risk still to play games in a region where there are secessionist groups organizing violent attacks in the city.
Limbe is part of the Anglophone region of Cameroon, with long dating tension with the rest of the country which is Francophone.
The consistent violence in the city threatened to put its shadow on the Tunisian national team, and the other teams in Group F.
In fact, after the first matchday in that group, a shoot-out reportedly took place near the hotel where the teams reside forcing a cancellation of training the next day. It was a close shave, but if COVID didn't exist, probably this would have been much worse than what it is. It's enough of a reason on its own to cancel any tournament. Thank god, nothing serious occurred.
The Ridiculousness on show!:
Now we come to the "funny part". Funny being the operative word here, because in comparison to COVID worries and death threats, this entry is a comedy show.
Let's just enumerate the incidents. In top place Jani Sikazwe's weird antics in Tunisia vs Mali, as he prematurely blew the whistle in the 85th minute only to rewind back, blowing the whistle 20 seconds before the 90 minute mark with 7 minutes at least wasted to VAR checks and subs.
CAF justified it by saying he had a "heat stroke" and was dehydrated.
Then, the wrong national anthem of Mauritania being played twice then sang by the players weirdly with no music, deflated match balls in Egypt vs Nigeria, TV production just being the worst with either no replays or extra lengthy replays to the point you miss the action.
Surely I forgot a lot of incidents, but these are enough to make the highlight reel for any banter show, football related or not. In conclusion, this edition of the African Cup of Nations simply is not up to standard and will only give more justifications to European media to berate it and belittle it.
If you liked this article, share it around and comment. You feel like debating? reach out to me on twitter @GouesmiO . Until next time!!.