For the past few weeks the CAN has been everywhere. The edition which was to take place in 2021 has been moved to this winter, and it is attracting the attention of the entire African continent, but also that of France.
Between the incredible breakthroughs of some teams, those who are thrown off to our surprise (hello Algerians), and a few small technical problems, this edition is going to go down in history. The CAN offers us an incredible show, enough to change us a little from the L1.
1. For the many twists
Defending champion Algeria is eliminated against Côte d’Ivoire in a match where the Fennecs, who were among the favorites in the competition, are largely dominated by the Elephants (3-1). The Comoros lose in the round of 16 in a very close match (without a real goalkeeper on the Comoros side) against Cameroon (2-1). Without forgetting Malawi’s incredible goal against Morocco with a shot from nearly 35m… in short, the competition has the merit of being thrilling.
2. It allows you to discover new teams and new players
What is good with the CAN is that it allows us to discover new players, and sometimes new talents (for us ordinary spectators, I am not talking about connoisseurs).
Mali, for example, considered an outsider, managed to finish first in its group by beating Tunisia (1-0) for their first match, and also Mauritania (2-0). They then face Equatorial Guinea and lose on penalties, a pretty good run that made us vibrate to the rhythm of this “small team”.
Another nice discovery: Zamalek Gabaski, was especially used to the bench in his selection, and it was his chance when the titular goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy was injured. He then enters the game and becomes the hero of the Egyptian team by making the only stoppage of the penalty shootout against Manchester United defender, Eric Bailly. Nice discovery for the spectators.
Or Gabadinho Mhango who becomes the hero of Malawi. Since the start of the CAN, the player had already made some good matches (doubled against Zimbabwe), and he scored a magnificent goal against Morocco in the eighth (full skylight at more than 35m).
In short, little nuggets that give us a change of scenery.
3. There are nice surprises in the organization too
Despite good matches, CAF, organizer of the African Cup of Nations, still has two or three small things to settle. The Mali-Tunisia match stopped before the regulation 90 minutes, the bad anthem for Mauritania which after two big failures will not have the chance to start the match by singing its anthem, or even a defender instead of a goal for the Comoros (because all the goalkeepers were declared “not eligible” despite negative tests).
This edition is organized in chaos, but that’s also what we like, it adds animation. Besides, what competition doesn’t have its share of meatballs? Remember that the same thing happened for the Albanian anthem in 2019 at the Stade de France (the Andorran anthem was played instead), or that in 2021 there was a ball problem during the Champions League draw. And yes, it does not only happen at the CAN.
4. The board is very open
As we said before, and as you have seen, the AFCON is THE competition in which unexpected teams make dazzling breakthroughs. In 2019 it was the team from Benin and Madagascar that impressed us, this year we congratulate Mali and the Comoros for their fine career.
It’s nice to see a little change, and to see smaller teams getting stronger (we can’t say the same too much in the Champions League or the World Cup).
5. African football takes a step towards equality with a female referee
Salima Mukansanga, is a real pioneer in African football (and even international given the number of female referees in male international competitions). The Rwandan referee is the first woman to referee a CAN game, she is one of the highest rated referees on the continent, who became a FIFA referee a few years ago.
After the Women’s World Cup, Salima Mukansanga offers herself the CAN, and the symbol is very strong.
6. The opening ceremony with the great Fally Ipupa and President Paul Biya
After the roar of a virtual lion, symbol of the Cameroon football team, the ceremony began with the songs of an (almost) full stadium in Olembé.
The Cameroonian president, who moves very rarely (at the same time he is 88 years old), made a lap of honor in the stadium to the ovations of his audience. And finally the international star Fally Ipupa, made the whole public and viewers dance, a pretty incredible ceremony if we sum up.
7. The impact of the competition in each country (a bit too much sometimes)
The CAN is taken very seriously throughout the African continent, but sometimes even too seriously. John Keister, the coach of the Sierra Leone team, explained that he received death threats when making the list of players for the competition.
A little too much as a reaction, even if yes, participating in the CAN is class.
8. It makes a few holes in L1
Karl Toko Ekambi and Islam Slimani for OL, Abdou Diallo, Idrissa Gueye and Achraf Hakimi for PSG, Bamba Dieng and Pape Gueye for OM, and many more in other French and international clubs. That’s a few less beautiful heads for the clubs, all the more reason to follow them at the CAN, but also perhaps to rebalance league 1 a little.
9. It’s the only competition that created a pseudo competition in the suburbs
In the summer of 2019, before the real African Cup of Nations, a pseudo CAN was organized in the districts of Evry. The “CAN-Epinetzo” (contraction of the name of the Epinettes and Aunettes districts) was very popular with the support of various players such as Karim Benzema or Didier Drogba or even rappers like Niska.
More than 1000 people made the trip to each match of this competition which was taken very seriously. Finally it is the “Rest of the world” (the team taking over the DOM-TOM) which will win in the final against the Mali team.
An event that arouses such enthusiasm is proof that the AFCON is the best football competition.
10. Because there are still vuvuzelas
Do you remember that thing that made a really annoying noise? Well right now in Cameroon, all the stadiums are full of them, it makes us a little nostalgic and that’s also what we like at the CAN.