The 32nd edition of Africa’s most popular football jamboree, the African Cup of Nations, dubbed AFCON 2019, kicked off in Egypt yesterday with an exciting opening match between host country, Pharaohs of Egypt and the Warriors of Zimbabwe.
This was preceded by an elaborate opening ceremony interspersed with speeches and rich display of Egyptian cultural heritage that gave the soccer fans and dignitaries in the 75,000-seater Cairo International Stadium much to cheer about.
The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon are the defending champions and host nation Egypt have the enviable record of winning the AFCON for unprecedented seven times.
Our own, the senior national team, the Black Stars, have landed in Egypt, after about three weeks of intensive pre-tournament training in Dubai, in another attempt to win the trophy to end the 37 years of AFCON drought.
The nation is solidly behind them, and the Ghanaian Times urges them to go all out, to win the trophy to appease Ghanaian soccer fans who have long yearn to see the AFCON trophy on the soil.
This year’s tournament is significant, given that it has been expanded from 16 to 24 countries, to make it more competitive and bring out the best of African soccer.
Again, this year’s tournament welcomes three debutants: Namibia, Mauritania and Burundi, who have qualified to play in the continental biennial soccer tournament.
The Ghanaian Times is wishing the Stars the best to justify the hardwork, commitment and motivation from government for that matter.
We at Ghanaian Times are asking for nothing more than fair play and officiating for the good of the game, to elevate the quality and standard of football and officiating.
Our concern for fair play in the game stems from alleged disturbing reports of scandals within the Confederation of African Football (CAF), whose President, Ahmad Ahmad, was detained in Paris, by French police over what the media reported as “mysterious involvement of a French company, Tactical Steel, in the negotiation of a lucrative new sportswear contract ahead of the start of the tournament.”
The media reports further stated “The deal was among a number of complaints reported to FIFA Ethics Committee by the then CAF General Secretary, Amr Fahmy. Days later he was sacked by Ahmad. Other issues concerned alleged sexual harassment of staff, overspending on new cars and selective ‘personal allowance’ payments to a number of African FA presidents.”
Certainly, these allegations against CAF officials cast a slur on the credibility of officials to run an open and transparent football administration on the continent.
We, therefore, urge CAF to use this AFCON to purge itself of these allegations and ensure good governance in the continental football administration.
Once more, we entreat the participating teams and match officials to play by the rules of the game for a worthy champion to emerge.
May the best team win!