The African Cup of Nations is a tournament which is gradually gaining interest from the western world, but for obvious reasons its status is nowhere near the same level of competitions such as the World Cup or European Championships.
However, the AFCON is the biggest regular sporting event in Africa and like every professional player, the chance to play for your nation at a major tournament is hardly taken lightly for those usually involved.
The AFCON was introduced by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) for the first time in 1957 and since then we have been blessed with 28 tournaments in total, Zambia being the latest team to win competition.
Although the tournament is well branded for its ecstatic fans and charismatic dance celebrations, the competition also has a major affect on the domestic duties. Since 1968, it was decided that the tournament would take place every two years, which would mean that players would have to leave their domestic responsibilities for their respectful clubs to help lead their nation.
January tends to be the time of the year when Premier League managers and other bosses around Europe come out to vent their frustration on how they will lose their players during the middle of the campaign.
As much as it is annoying for the managers, it is not something they can say they are oblivious to.
Africa is a continent that is producing players and nurturing them into Europe at a fast rate, and with a continuous growth of African talent into domestic leagues in Europe, is there a possibility that later on, with the AFCON disrupting squads during the season, managers may come to the conclusion that spending money on African players could be a bit far fetched?
To be honest I don’t see why it should, if we take the likes of the Toure brothers for Manchester City this season, it’s hard to suggest that both players do not hold an important role in Mancini’s team. Yaya had bagged six goals in 13 games for City and was key in leading them to the FA Cup last season.
Whilst Kolo Toure was able to win his place back in the team from Joleon Lescott after a 6-month ban.
More examples include Demba Ba for Newcastle, Didier Drogba and Michael Essien for Chelsea as well as many other class acts in the Premier League. So must we now say that because they have international duties buying African players is a risk? That would be very naive in my opinion.
The competition shouldn’t limit the ambitions of African players trying to ply their trade in Europe, in greater respect the tournament should be seen as a platform for these players to showcase their ability to the world.
It would come as a huge disappointment to see such circumstances block the pathway for African players coming into Europe, especially considering the importance of many of them for their domestic clubs.
Although it may not affect the growth of African talent in Europe I do believe managers will grow more and more anxious preparing for future campaigns.
You cannot write off the importance of a player because of his mandatory commitments elsewhere, furthermore, any manager intending on bringing this case to FIFA would rightfully be waved away.
Africa take great pride in their competition and with the quality of African players stepping up a notch, the Premier League and other leagues around Europe could benefit from up and coming talent coming out of Africa.
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