Poster boys won’t dazzle on Afcon field

2011-10-15 15:10

There are mixed reactions over the impact the absence of ­big-name players and nations will have on the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon next year.

The two nations lack notable stars in the mould of Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o, Nigerian John Obi Mikel, South Africa’s Steven Pienaar and Mohamed Zidan of Egypt.

These are poster boys of African football and they were expected to be the event’s major attractions.

For some who have collected more than 100 caps like Eto’o, Egypt’s striker Mohamed Abouterika and goalkeeper Essam el Hadary, next year’s event was seen as an ideal stage for their swan song.

All these names are major players within and outside the African market and remain arguably the continent’s most recognisable athletes and leading brand ambassadors.

Puma – who sponsors Eto’o, Pienaar and 12 African countries including former champions Bafana Bafana, Cameroon and Egypt – said the absence of the group detracts from their market values.

Puma SA marketing director Brett Bellinger said: “As with all major tournaments the perceived top teams and top players are all part of the hype building on the tournament.

“The fact that there is Ghana and Ivory Coast, who are ­Puma-sponsored sides ensures the hype will be significant as well as the consumer interest in the tournament.
“Certainly we will miss the Eto’os and the Pienaars, but we still have a fantastic on-pitch representation.”

Fifa marketing instructor and strategic consultant Emy Casaletti-Bwalya said: “Afcon, like the Fifa World Cup, has grown in stature as a brand over the past 30 or so years.

“Qualifying for the Afcon is the most sought-after continental accomplishment.

“Given the stature of this event, the absence of some ­big-name players and nations will not affect the marketability of the tournament. It will also not deter African soccer lovers from watching the tournament.

“There is a huge global interest in the African game, and that is what marketers want – eyeballs, exposure and reach.

“The beauty of the tournament is that this is where big names are born.

“Niger and Botswana, who are going to participate for the first time, will be interesting to watch.”

Brand Africa chairperson and founder Thebe Ikalafeng said: “Afcon should have the same prestige as the Euro and the Fifa World Cup. These are the tournaments that are viewed by sports consumers all over the world. It is sad when leading players fail to qualify. The leading players’ absence will also affect their market value.”

Player business manager Mike Makaab of Prosport International said: “When ­big-name players miss out they deprive their own supporters but new stars will emerge.”

Adidas PR manager Zobuzwe Ngobese said Afcon was an ideal platform to showcase new products but “from the brand awareness point of view the absence of Nigeria and some of the individual players we sponsor will not have a negative impact on the brand”.

The qualified countries are Gabon, Equatorial Guinea (co-hosts), Niger, Angola, Botswana, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Senegal, Tunisia, Zambia, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Libya and Sudan.

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