Afcon action has been magnificent
There were fears that without the traditional African power houses, the 29th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations would be a monumental flop, with the kind of performances that would be sleep inducing.
However, after two rounds, I am filled with pride about the extremely high standards displayed so far. I know some of the matches have been nothing short of scrappy but, overall, the quality has been impressive.
It was assumed that Cape Verde would wilt under the enormity of the tournament, that Niger would embarrass and Ethiopia would just add to the numbers but the opposite has been true. The trio has earned respect from nearly all quarters.
I think the trio might be boxing out of their weight division but they have held their own and have hardly suffered a knockout punch. Instead they have rattled the confidence of the so-called heavyweights with some solid punching.
The fighting spirit of the Ethiopians, the technical ability of the “Blue Sharks” from Cape Verde and the compactness and solid structure of the Menas of Niger has strengthened my belief that the playing fields in Africa have been levelled.
Let’s sit back and look critically at the teams that are competing here and, if we are honest enough, will admit that the tournament needed fresh faces to inject more spark in what had been a dreary affair, with the usual suspects competing in every tournament in the past.
Who is missing Cameroon or Egypt? In actual fact, I should not be talking about teams that are not here. They got their opportunity but were not good enough to qualify and so, let’s give credit to the teams that have earned the right to be in South Africa.
Personally I loved every minute of the tournament so far. Ethiopia made the Chipolopolo of Zambia look like they had completed 15 rounds with Floyd Mayweather. Burkina Faso dropped the Super Eagles of Nigeria on the seat of their pants and the Black Stars of Ghana staggered like drunken sailors at their end of their clash with the DR Congo.
Cape Verde not only made Bafana Bafana look bad in the opening match but also were seconds away from registering what would have been certainly the biggest upset in the history of the tournament against Morocco.
We have seen Emmanuel Adebayor, Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba and Mikel John Obi. Now it’s the time for the emergence of fresh faces and, frankly, Saladin Said of Ethiopia, Moussa Maazou of Niger and Mendes of Cape Verde are like a welcome breath of fresh air.
The tight, goalless scores are a clear indication that no one has dominated like in the past. The winning margins have been 1-0, except South Africa who, up to this stage have won 2-0. Ivory Coast won 2-1 so the odds are even all round.
My only gripe has been the unending embarrassment of ticket sales where, here in Port Elizabeth, fans were informed tickets were sold out days before the opening matches, yet during the match, only half the stadium seats were occupied.
Now it has emerged that groups of youths were seen holding bags full of tickets, touting them at taxi ranks and other places around the city. Where and how did they obtain these tickets? The executive mayor of the city has called for a commission of enquiry and I support him.