After an exciting fortnight of pulsating but a technically mediocre festival of football in Equatorial Guinea, the Elephants of Cote D’Ivoire have become the new Champions of African football.
They took over the coveted trophy that was relinquished, rather humiliatingly, by the Super Eagles of Nigeria who exited at the qualifying stage of the championship. It may have taken well over 20 years for their drought of success to end, but when it finally did last Sunday night, the whole of Cote D’Ivoire exploded in an orgy of celebration. The government declared a national public holiday and lavishly rewarded the gallant heroes with houses and cash gifts.
The final match with the Black Stars of Ghana created razor-sharp pressure for both teams.
Tactically, they cancelled each other out for 120 minutes and the match had to be settled by penalty kicks! Historians were very busy x-raying Cote D’Ivoire’s unique record of getting to the finals of the championship three times and not scoring even a single goal during any of the final matches. The recourse to penalty kicks historically favoured the Ivoriens. In 1992, they won the championship for the first time against the same Ghana after a marathon penalty shootout that ended 11-10! Last Sunday night, as the match tapered to another goalless end, the big question on everyone’s mind was whether history would repeat itself.
As it turned out the elements were on the side of Cote D’Ivoire once again. Thunder struck twice on the same spot! Ghana were stranded on the banks of misfortune as they threw away an early two-goal lead due to nerves and lost 8-9 in the end.Otherwise, the final match was tension-soaked but technically ordinary and boring, a true reflection of the entire championship.
Even as Cote D’Ivoire took away the coveted trophy they created an unofficial record of twice winning the trophy through penalty shootouts. Winning the championship was momentous for Cote D’Ivoire as it marked the end of an era for their ageing generation of players -some of the best footballers in the history of African football. Between them, Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure have won the African player of the year award 7 times in the past decade! Add to that other great players playing at the highest level in Europe, including Wilfred Bony,Kolo Toure, Salomon Kalu, Gervinho, and so on!
It is unfortunate that Drogba chose to retire from international football on the eve of the championship. The victory would have capped a very illustrious and unprecedented career that had only the African Cup of Nations title as the missing trophy in his rich chest. On the balance, only a very thin line separated Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire, not just in the final match but also throughout the championship. Ghana looked slightly better organised as a team, even though it is Cote D’Ivoire that did not lose any of their matches throughout the championship.It is not surprising that the player of the tournament came from the Ghanaian team. Atsu, the fleet, left-footed player operating from the right side of the Ghanaian attack, scoring two of Ghana’s three goals in the quarterfinals and, for constantly terrorizing the Ivorian defense during the final match, deserved the award. He was the brightest star in a grey consternation.
Finally, the Championship will be remembered not for memorable matches but for other reasons: how the championship ended up in a country that did not qualify for the championship and was under suspension by CAF; how the terraces were empty during most of the matches except those involving the host country; how Morocco were suspended (and have rejected the suspension) for two tournaments for refusing to host the event due to genuine health fears; how Tunisia were suspended for failing to apologise for accusing CAF of bias and complicity when they were ‘robbed’ openly by a referee who only got a slap-on-the-wrist six-month suspension, for his shameful handling of the match in question; how supporters of the host country threw decorum to the dogs and unleashed mayhem on players and supporters of opposing teams, with the shameful scenes watched on television all over the world; how both CAF and FIFA Presidents condemned the Western media for ‘exaggerating’ their reports of the incidents that smeared the organization of the championship because they needed to make more friends than enemies amongst national federations with their elections coming! And so on!
At the end of AFCON 2015, the championship simply could not produce or showcase authentic new stars to illuminate African football into the immediate future!
Sepp Blatter’s Final Act And Legacy!
Which is the most powerful office in the world? The office of the President of the United States! Wrong!
The most powerful office in the world is the office of the President of FIFA! Right!
The FIFA President has thrown his hat into the ring for the 2015 FIFA Presidential election.
The only reason Mr. Sepp Blatter would disregard the consequences of setting aside his public declaration made on the eve of the last elections that he would not run for the office again, and dare to seek the office once again is because he knows he will win the election! He also knows that he will win not because the rest of the world loves him that much, or considers him indispensable but because he seats atop the most powerful office in the world and will use the awesome power of that office (which he knows very well) and of incumbency to checkmate all other contenders. The product of such ‘arrogant’ thinking is that even in the face of global rejection of totalitarianism in governance, the world can do nothing to stop Blatter.
Yet, everyone around the world knows that President Blatter,at almost 80 years of age and four terms already as FIFA President, should not be seeking another term in office. The world can only look on hopelessly and helplessly, frustrated by the rules of engagement crafted by FIFA under Mr. Blatter.
The FIFA President that holds football in trust for the entire world should be promoting best sports practices and conduct through peace, friendship, equity, democracy, integrity, fair play and transparency has been entrapped by the perks and influence of an office with powers reminiscent of the darkest days of authoritarian rule and dictatorships in the world. At his advanced age, Blatter, who has surely done a great deal for football in his four decades romance with football, should be the champion of the enduring tradition of true democratic practice.
No office in the world today should have an unlimited term. What is going on now is a dangerous promotion and strengthening of dictatorship through the no-term limit for the office of FIFA President. Even the Presidency of the most powerful nation on earth, for good reason through past experiences, has a two-term limit. Anything longer than two terms in any office will breed tyranny and dictatorship! The situation in FIFA has become a cankerworm percolating through all levels of the global football hierarchy.
Local Football Councils, State and National Football Associations and Federations, and even the Confederations are taking a cue from the practice in FIFA, and self-perpetuation in office now dominates the administrative football landscape. Take CAF for example.
Issa Hayatou has been President for almost 30 years. The rules have been changed severally through the years to accommodate his self-succession plots. The last one was a new rule that only members of the Executive Committee, all loyal to him because he helped them all to get there, could contest for the CAF Presidency. As his present tenure draws to an end, there are reports of moves already seeking another term in office for him even though the present constitution of CAF forbids anyone above the age of 70 from holding the office. President Hayatou is now 68! Using the awesome power of the President, the goal posts will soon be shifted and the age limit restriction will be removed to enable him contest again. Yet, it is apparent that Hayatou’s health has become a big issue.
Even at National Federations level, from country to country, particularly in the Third World, attempts at self-perpetuation in office have become photocopies of the example set by the FIFA President. That’s why they all run to him (and get his protection) when crisis erupt from their attempts. This practice must be stopped. For now, only Sepp Blatter can do it. The statutes of FIFA and all its Confederations and Federations must be amended before Blatter leaves office. Term limits must be introduced to halt the promotion of dictatorships in football administration. This should be Sepp Blatter’s final act and legacy that he bequeaths to the world. He must introduce a two-term limit for the leadership of FIFA, as well as all its affiliate members!