By Kwesii Asomadu
THE KINGS OF AFRICA
“I'm sure the boys up there will be watching on Sunday,” were the words of Zambian legend and president of the Football Association, Kalusha Bwalya, ahead of the 2012 African Nation’s Cup final.
Those simple words were drenched with emotion and a history of sorrow. Those words told a story of one of football’s biggest tragedies. True to his words the boys from the 1993 plane crash watched the game from up there. All 18 of them and as Chris Katongo led the Chipolopolo to do the Haka after the last penalty lick, they probably joined in.
|THE REIGNING CHAMPIONS
These gallant Zambia players had fulfilled their dream after downing the Drogba-led Elephants. The Chipolopolo were now the Kings of Africa, joining the illustrious list of nations to ascend this all powerful throne. Now after just a year of ruling Africa they are back to try to defend their crown. The heroes of 2012 are back. The team is intact with the likes of Kennedy Mweene, Sunzu, Kalaba, Mayuka and Chris Katongo all returning. All the boys up there too will be back watching, hoping Mission Impossible 2 ends with Chris Katongo leading the boys to do the Haka again.
After the embarrassment of celebrating on the pitch with the believe that they had qualified for the last Nations Cup, its only “right” that the Bafana Bafana got the easiest ticket to Afcon 2013 - as Hosts. Having failed as the only host nation to fail to make it out of the group stages when they staged the World Cup, the Rainbow Nation will very much be playing for pride. There are echoes that this current team has shades of the 1996 team that went on to win the Nations Cup as Hosts. But after that unimpressive opener against debutants Cape Verde, can they?
|THE BRIDESMAIDS FROM WEST AFRICA
At the end of every African Nations Cup competition in the 21st Century (all 7 of them) at least one of these three power houses of African football watch on as the winner throws her bouquet and wrestle to catch, hoping the next edition would bring them joy. Each time they have returned to the next tournament and met disappointment. If the Black Stars of Ghana, the Elephants of Ivory Coast and the Super Eagles were to team up to write a book on their Nations Cup story of the nougthies the title will simply read “The Chokers”. With four final appearances between them in the last seven editions of the Nations Cup they have failed at the final hurdle. Semi-final appearances often come by default and are hardly seen as an achievement. Another Nations Cup has arrived and they would be seeking to right the wrongs. Drogba would be hoping his swansong on the continent’s biggest stage would end with him giving out more blings to team-mates.
|... Ghana and Nigeria
Asamoah Gyan and Ghana return to the country where they made all of Africa fall in love with them in 2010. They would be battling to end 31 years of hurt and as captain, Gyan could be lifting the trophy in the same Stadium he was denied demi-god status by a coat of paint. Nigeria return to drink at the table of men after their absence in the last Cup of Nations. The last time the world saw them at a major tournament, Yakubu was writing his name in infamy. Walking in the shadows of their more illustrious west African sisters is Mali. If Ghana, Nigeria and Ivory Coast are seen as bridesmaids then they are the pageboys. The bronze medalist from the last African Nations would be hoping to go one step better. With only one title up for grabs, expect at least two of these west African countries to return from South Africa with their tag as bridesmaids intact
|THE CRUSADERS FROM NORTH AFRICA
African football underwent massive domination form north Africa as Tunisia and Egypt won between them four consecutive of African Nations Cup titles. From Tunis, to Alexandria through to Accra to Luanda, North Africa led by the mighty Pharaohs conquered all of Africa with breathtaking brilliance. After failing to qualify for the last Nations Cup Egypt hired an American archaeologist in Bob Bradley to find the mummified Pharaohs. To put it lightly he was not quite the Indiana Jones they hoped for.
North Africa’s delegation to this year’s Africa Nation’s Cup includes Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Two of these teams have been locked in the group of death alongside Ivory Coast and Ade-pendiente (Togo). Morocco are in Group A and would be very disappointed if they fail to make it out of the group like they did in the last African Cup of Nations.
As underdogs go Cape Verde, Ethiopia and Niger, who can probably be described as under-puppies. The trio come into the competitions expected to make early exists. Participation alone for Cape Verde should be seen as massive strides for their football.
If you crossed a sleeping giant with sleeping beauty what you would come up with is the Ethiopian National team. After a 31-year absence from the biggest stage of African football, the 1962 champions would celebrate qualification from the group stage as winning the trophy itself. Back to back Nations Cup qualification for Niger can be seen as massive success, but they would be working hard to at least get a point on the board this time.