If you’re Nigerian, chances are you’re not really following the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations tournament. Afterall, the Nigerian national football team didn’t qualify! We definitely feel the pain too, but here are 5 reasons why you should stay glued to AFCON 2017 from January 14th to February 5th.
The Suspense and the Upsets: Unlike the Euros, the 16-team format means there are very few dead games. A group stage where one defeat can leave even the strongest teams in trouble, goes straight into the quarter finals stage. Anything can happen: Two years ago, hosts and underdogs Equatorial Guinea made it to the semi-finals, two years before that Burkina Faso secured a spot in the finals, and in 2012 Zambia actually won it. Meanwhile, nine-time AFCON champions, Egypt didn’t even qualify in 2015 – truly anything can happen at AFCON.
The Celebrity Players: AFCON attracts some of the best players in the Premier League, and from top European teams like West Ham, Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Liverpool and Watford, right in the middle of the club season. In fact, five of the Premier League’s record signings hail from the African continent. The most highly sought-after player in the January transfer window, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, is playing in this year’s tournament. Riyad Mahrez, Wilfred Zaha, Sadio Mane and Andre Ayew will all be in AFCON 2017. Sure, there are players who opt not to play, but for those who do attend, it is always a career highlight.
The Frenzy: This is a tournament where the Togolese team Coach, Claude Le Roy, is attending his ninth AFCON, in charge of his sixth African team. No other international tournament boasts of such “dynamic re-employability.” Then there is the fact that two of the top sides came into the tournament with brand new coaches. Algeria are onto their third coach in a year, while hosts Gabon only appointed Jose Antonio Camacho two months ago. Yet both are still among the favourites for the tournament. It’s chaotic, sure, but it’s certainly fun.
The (New) Talent: Eric Bailly is an impeccable example. Didier NDong, Sunderland’s club-record sign-on, caught the eye as a youngster in Equatorial Guinea, as did Dieumerci Mbokani, who is now leading the line for Hull City.
The Passion: International football is different, and African football especially so. The hunger that surrounds the AFCON games is tangible. With 16 teams of top flight players gunning for the cup, the defending champions, Ivory Coast have their work cut out for them, along with tournament favourites Ghana, Senegal, Algeria and Egypt.
You certainly don’t want to miss out on AFCON 2017. Connect those TVs and sound systems and experience the live action and thrills of AFCON 2017.