More questions than answers

2013-02-09 00:00

HISTORY will be made no matter who wins the 29th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tomorrow.

HISTORY

A Nigerian win will see them claim their third title since they won the competition as hosts in 1980 beating Algeria 3-0 in the final. They also claimed it in 1994 in a 2-1 victory over Zambia.

The final was an emotional affair. The crowd, which included the world’s best footballer,Pele, gave Zambia a standing ovation at one stage after their captain, Kalusha Bwalya, was robbed by the upright from grabbing the equaliser.

Zambia had beaten all the odds to get to the final after losing their entire squad of 18 players — save Bwalya — during the qualifications. The players died in a horrific air crash off the coast of Gabon on their way to a World Cup qualifying match against Senegal.

Coach Stephen Keshi was the captain who lifted the trophy that year and today he stands on the threshold of claiming it again as mentor to his young squad.

Nigeria came close again in 2000 when they co-hosted the tournament with Ghana, but were defeated 4-3 by Cameroon in a penalty shoot-out following a two-all stalemate after extra-time.

For Burkina Faso, this is unchartered waters as they are in the final for the first time. Their best finish was coming fourth in the tournament they hosted in 1998.

TALKING POINTS

Had Burkina Faso lost in Wednesday’s semi-final against Ghana, they would have had every right to scream “We wuz robbed!”

This followed the atrocious way in which Tunisian referee Slim Jdidi had handled the match. It seemed he had no intention of seeing the Stallions proceed to the next round. Not only did he award Ghana a soft penalty, from which they scored, but he also denied Burkina Faso a clear penalty when Jonathan Pitroika, one of the best players in the Burkinabe team, was fouled inside the penalty area.

Not only that, he booked the speedy Pitroika for the second time, meaning that he is off for the next game.

However, the Confederation of African Football rescinded the red card, showing they are a credible organisation and had nothing to do with Jdidi’s jaundiced decisions.

Jdidi’s handling of this match followed the appalling performance of South Africa’s Daniel Bennett in the match between Togo and Tunisia.

These two refs left a black mark on the officiating of this tournament.

As for the pitch at the Mbombela Stadium, the less said the better. It was no surface on which to play matches in such a high-level tournament.

QUESTIONS

While the final takes place tomorrow, South Africa will not be licking its wounds but will be pondering a number of questions.

These include:

Where to Bafana Bafana?

Was it worth the country’s while to host this event?

Are Bafana Bafana capable of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil?

These are serious questions that need to be answered by the South African Football Association.

Answers to these questions will determine the way forward for our football.

But one thing that this tournament has emphasised — but not proved, as we have always known this — is that South Africa’s football is far from reaching not only its pinnacle but realising its true potential.

Once more, West Africa’s dominance of the continent’s football was evident as all four semi-finalists — Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Mali — were from this region.

So no matter who wins today, the trophy will go to West Africa for the 12th time since Afcon’s inception in 1957, and out of 29 editions.

Southern Africa have won just two, South Africa in 1996 and Zambia last year.

Should Nigeria win it, they will get more bragging rights over South Africa as they have always claimed that the only reason Bafana Bafana won in 1996 was that they did not participate in the competition following a spat between the two countries’ then presidents, Nelson Mandela and General Sani Abacha.

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