Club vs country conflict

EDITOR - The African Cup Of Nations (AFCON)is undoubtedly the continent's premier soccer showcase. However, the tournament is riddled with controversy. There have been calls for several adjustments to bring the tournament in line with modern times. This may be perceived as Europe's ploy to recolo

nize Africa. As a fellow African, i see this as myopic. Since the problem is enormous, it requires a multifaceted approach. Although FIFA statutes prioritize national duty unless a player decides to play for his club, this is problematic.

A player finds himself in a dilemma as choosing to play for his country at AFCON may result in him losing his place at his club. An example is Togo’s Emmanuel Adebayor who fell out at Monaco after insisting on playing for the hawks. Fortunately for him, he managed to join English giants Arsenal.

CAF should realize that football is now big business hence players eke out a living through it. Airlifting a player interchangeably between his base and the AFCON has been adopted in recent times. Portsmouth’s newly-signed Zimbabwean striker Benjani Mwaruwaru travelled from England to Egypt soon after Pompey’s match a few hours before the warriors tie against Senegal.

In the match ‘the undertaker’ was visibly tired and out of sorts. Maybe this was due to his club’s relegation worries and his failure to score in his second consecutive appearance in a 0-5 drubbing at the hands of Birmingham. The club and country commitments usually has adverse physical and psychological effects on players who, as a result, fail to perform to expectations. Some players have resorted to feigning injuries whilst others like Middleborough’s Nigerian striker Yakubu Ayegbeni have opted for their clubs.

The ‘club versus country’ conflict, therefore, results in the absence of star players at AFCON. This defeats the whole purpose of the tournament. Moreover, AFCON risks losing the much-needed publicity since it coincides with intriguing stages of the UEFA champions league. Apparently, AFCON should be shifted to the end of the European seasons not the middle where relegation and championship battles are fought.

Alternatively, it would be changed from being biennial to once in four years in an even numbered year between world cup tournaments as is the case with the EUROS. Whatever stance they take, CAF has a mandate to ensure that at the end of the day African football emerges as the winner. I rest my case.

Witness Roya, UK

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