Why blame the actors?
I listened to the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations LOC chairman Chief Mwelo, who was on the verge of breaking down, lamenting the cheek of some players across the continent, who are turning their backs on the Afcon and instead preferring to feature for their respective European clubs.
South Africa’s Steven Pienaar informed national coach Gordon Igesund that he had “retired” from international football. To his credit, Igesund accepted the player’s decision even though I suspect he would have loved nothing better than to have the Everton star wearing the number 10 jersey at the tournament.
Then Michael Essien also dropped a bombshell to the Ghanaian Federation, informing them that national call-ups have messed up his career and for now, he wished to focus on his club career with Real Madrid, something that had Ghanaians hopping mad.
Samba Diakite of Queens Park Rangers has also indicated to the Malian FA that he was withdrawing from the 2013 Afcon, and you do not need to be a rocket scientist to realise that he has been “pressurised” by his British club to choose club over country.
Emmanuel Adebayor has also withdrawn from the “Sparrow Hawks” and although his decision was personal and had to do with the running of the game in his native Togo, who knows if he was using this as a ruse and perhaps he has also been “forced” to abandon his country by Tottenham Hotspur?
Newcastle United have two Senegalese players on their books – Pappiss Demba Cisse and Demba Ba – who are responsible for driving the “Magpies” to a respectable position in the English Premier League, disclosed before Senegal was eliminated from the qualifiers that they would “persuade” them not to come.
But they knew that African federations would appeal to Fifa who in turn would enforce measures that would prevent the players from turning out for their respective clubs for the duration of the tournament. And now they are using subtle and quiet “diplomacy” by pressurising individual players to turn their backs to their native countries.
I am however proud of Igesund, who told Belgian side Kortrijk that they can go jump, he wants his player Darren Keet for the tournament despite their attempts to play down his value to South Africa, claiming he is never going to play and will sit out the tournament, how do they know and, can they tell that to a European federation?
But in truth, we can shout until we are hoarse about the unsporting tactics adopted by the Europeans in undermining our national interests, the sad reality is that we have come to be considered a joke of all confederations making up the international football playing family that is Fifa.
We are the only confederation where our players go on strike on the eve of a major tournament, simply because fat-cat officials have pocketed incentives that are supposed to be paid to the players.
It is only in Africa, where officials drive fancy German cars, wear sharp pointed shining shoes and sit in first and business class sections while the players are all cramped in economy classes.
And when it comes to accommodation, again the players and technical team get to be booked at some dodgy looking lodgings, while the officials get chauffeured in air-conditioned limousines to seven star hotels where they quaff calamari and down it with vintage wine.
As we speak, countless national broadcasters are being squeezed their last cent by the Confederation of African Football to pay exorbitant amounts enabling them the right to broadcast the Africa Cup of Nations, yet mystery remains as to how much this amounts to and what happens to these fees.
For argument’s sake, assuming every national broadcaster pay CAF an equivalent of US$500 000, that amounts to almost US30-m and when you throw in Orange, Pepsi, Standard Bank and heaven knows how many other sponsorship partners, it can easily run into US$100-m.
Mind you, the bloated CAF executive does not pay for their boarding, travel, accommodation and food. It is the host nation that foots the bills of their expenditure so; it will be interesting to find out how much they spend while lounging at private VIP suites of stadiums watching the tournament.
And at the end of the tournament, the winning nation takes home US$1.5-m as first prize! What boggles the mind is that presidents of 44 out of 54 federations have voted for incumbent Issa Hayatou to continue ruling them with an iron fist for an additional four years!