By Sammie Frimpong
Take me on if you will, but I do believe the CHAN - full name, the African Nations Championships - is a pretty meaningless competition, and it gets a little more so with each new edition that is organised.
READY? | Yahaya Mohammed warming up to the tournament
The reasons for which it was originally conceptualised were indeed noble. The continent's domestic leagues had been marginalised for long and risked being reduced to nothingness by the mass exodus of the biggest star names to professional divisions in Europe. The quality that remained was simply not of the sort that would merit consideration for the various African national teams.
The CHAN - some five years old now - is just not working according to plan, as even the commendable reasoning that triggered its birth appears to get staler by the year.
Bar a handful of daring coaches - the likes of Nigeria's Stephen Keshi - who have shown some personal interest in giving local players opportunities, the catalytic magic the CHAN was supposed to provide in the careers of its target bracket of footballers is not really being apparent. For a fact, the farthest most of these home-based footballers ever get to in terms of representing their countries is with the 'local' national teams; to stand a fair chance of getting into the national sides 'proper', they are almost obliged to seek pastures greener in Europe - an opportunity that, quite ironically, exposure gained from participation at the CHAN tends to provide.
The CHAN robs continental football of even more. The qualification series, if not the finals itself, proves an unnecessary distraction to local league schedules, one that most could certainly do without. Whipping up interest in our domestic football is already difficult enough; taking extended breaks from it to concentrate on a tournament of little practical value complicates things some more.
Well, many are those who regard the CHAN as being little more than a consolatory package for failed internationals/wannabe superstars, and quite rightly so. Alternatively, it could pass, in the books of some, as a little side-job for national team coaches when 'off-duty' or, at worse, a crumb they pass on to their assistants (as in the case of Ghana trainer Kwesi Appiah and Maxwell Konadu his deputy) for the latter to enrich their CVs and find a means of keeping themselves busy. Call it, too, a bigger, slightly more glorified version of the regional mini-tournaments (the likes of the Wafu, Cecafa, and Cosafa cups), and you would hardly be wrong either. Such is the degree of seriousness with which the CHAN is treated.
The competition earns minimal attention and coverage, too. The third edition of the competition commences over the weekend and one can be almost certain that the most the average football fan in Accra would be interested in regarding Ghana's opening match against Congo on Monday would be the final scoreline. For the vast majority - intensely enamored of football as Ghanaians are - it would rather be 90 minutes spent making some money at the market or preparing a good meal of fufu and nkrankra for supper.
You cannot fault them, though.
If the Egyptians - who generally take their domestic football so seriously - do not regard the CHAN worthwhile enough to participate in it, and three clubs from the hosts of this year's edition (South Africa, also another country known to pay more than the 'usual' attention to their domestic championship) - Orlando Pirates, AJax Cape Town, and Amazulu - can opt out of releasing players for the competition or feel reluctant about it due to 'fixture congestion', really, what should the CHAN matter to anyone?
Too bad, but it is just not worth it.