By Jacob Ajom
From January 10, Africa will become the cynosure of all eyes, especially followers of global football as the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in Luanda, Angola. Three other cities, Benguela, Cabinda and Lubengo will play host to matches of the continental fiesta.
It is expected that African footballers,Â some of who are the best in the world, will showcase their know how and impress it on the world that African footballÂ has come of age.
For the past one week, African countries that will be represented at the fiesta have been gathering their players from far and near, putting finishing touches to their strategies with a view to putting up credible performances at the tournament.
The Africa Cup of Nations attracts interest from beyond Africa. This editionÂ in particular, holds a lot of significance to many countries around the globe. Countries that qualified for the World Cup that are grouped alongside African opposition will be more that willing to spend money and come to Africa for the Nations Cup to spy on their group opponents before the Mundial.
As for African teams that will also be at the South Africa 2010 World Cup, they should count themselves lucky. This is because the tournament in Angola will serve as a dress rehearsal before the World Cup. Coaches not satisfied with their teamâ€™s outings will be offered opportunities to restructure their squads, plug all the loopholes and play friendly matches before the World Cup. Most of their counterparts in Europe and elsewhere will not have such a test ground that the African tournament is providing the Africa flagbearers.
Most importantly, the Nations Cup will go a long way in giving African football followers a glimpse of what to expect in South Africa. The 2010 World Cup is the first to be staged on African soil and the African agenda is â€œLet us host to win.â€
Ghana U-20 national team did it in Egypt after beating the dreaded Brazilians in the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup last year. Nigeria almost repeated the Ghanaian feat at the FIFA U-17 World Cup which she hosted but Switzerland won the epic final in Abuja, piping the Golden Eaglets 1-0 in an exciting final. The challenge now rests squarely on the shoulders of African senior teams to place the continent where it rightly belongs in global football.
The worry however, is how fit are the players. Almost every camp has injury crisis. For the Nigerian team, for instance, the coach submitted a late list because the level of Obafemi Martinsâ€™ fitness could not be ascertained before the CAF deadline. Apart from Martins, Seyi Olofinjana, Joseph Yobo and Yakubu Aiyegbeni are yet to attain full fitness for the task ahead.
The Ghanaian team, The Black Stars will prosecute the Nations Cup without the likes of influential captain, Stephen Appiah. Even the stand-in captain, Michael Essien is still not one hundred per cent fit as he has not kicked a ball yet for Chelsea, his English club for close to a month now.
The Egyptian team, the Pharaohs are going to Angola without one of their most traveled players, Mido due to a back injury, even though there are conflicting reports about his not making the team. Mido has a no love lost relationship with the Egyptian national team coach, Hassan Shehata.
We may not see the best of Barcelona of Spain star, Yaya Toure who is nursing an injury from his clubâ€™s World Club championship campaign in Dubai.Despite the odds, CAN 2010 will prove a lot for Africa and world soccer.