A strong western wave is blowing over African football. Sunday’s final at the national stadium will be one colourful event accompanied by the familiar rhythmic drumming from the West spiced by the deafening vuvuzela blowing noise which should make for a dynamic ensemble.
Welcome to the West African party down South!
Traditionally Football has had a cult like following in North and West…In recent times North Africa has dominated Africa’s game besides the1992 final, won by Ghana when they saw off Cote d’Ivoire and when Nigeria won it two years later when they faced Zambia.
Since then North Africans have never missed the quarters finals of the continental fiesta.
So the outcome of this year’s group stages made the trip back home for Tunisia and Morocco rather long and bumpy…possibly the political wave that swept across the North has affected their rabid identification with the national football teams.
It’s even worse for powerhouse Egypt, who never made a return down South since their triumph in 1996 in Johannesburg, after missing the finals in Angola.
Football is a spellbinding affair
Football in West Africa is a spellbinding affair. This is the time when Witchdoctors are sought to prepare charms that should grant their teams the much sought after victories.
It should be a busy time for the region witchdoctors too with football officials and even players known to seek the counsel of the ‘magicians’.
Any unexpected happenings around the pitch, training venues are quickly decoded by traditional tribesmen. The juju-marabouts mediums in Accra, Ouagadougou to Abuja and Bamako have all had their predictions in favour of the their teams.
Even Arab magicians have had a go at it. During the CAF awards in December last year, an Arab perfuming magician predicted that the 2013 AFCON finals would be a Ghana/Nigeria final….will see.
Four former hosts now semi-finalists
Magic charms aside on paper these four teams are worthy contenders, there are two Anglophone speaking former champions Ghana (1992) and Nigeria (1994) and Franco-sides Burkina Faso and Mali both eager to lay claim to the coveted cup.
All four teams have lost the Africa cup as host. When Burkina Faso hosted and reached the semi-finals in 1998, Egypt claimed their fourth trophy. In 2000 Nigeria hosted alongside Ghana and it was won by Cameroon who beat Nigeria on penalty kicks.
The indomitable Lions retained their trophy in 2002 in Bamako and when Ghana hosted it in 2008 it was Egypt who reigned supreme.
The battle of the eagles
The most imposing birds of the skies-Eagles- are known to fight to the very end. Which makes the Super Eagles and Eagles clash in Durban an exciting clash for supremacy with the winner tipped to win the AFCON title.
The two giants should deploy their deadliest weapons: an inform fight hardened Seydou Keita spearheading the Mali charge with a fast rising Emmanuel Emenike, who began his football career here in South Africa, looking to fill the large striking boots of Super Eagles legend Rashidi Yekini.
Nigeria hopes history can repeat itself after their 2-0 win over Cote d’Ivoire. When they squared it off with the Ivorian’s in 1980 they won the Cup; 14 years later they again faced off in the semi finals with Super Eagles winning what remains their last African trophy to date.
Can Burkina Faso surprise?
In Nelspruit, the conditions of the bumpy pitch at the Mbombela Stadium have dominated the Burkinabe, Ghana clash but has not in any way dampened the hype around the match.
Kwesi Appiah, the ex-Ghana captain who won the trophy with his side is now leading the Black Stars and hopes that his players can make history.
“I keep telling the players that I was lucky to be one of the players that played in 1982 that won the Cup. My name is written in the books in Ghana as a medal winner. They also need to write their names,” he said.
Despite missing their top striker Alain Traore, the Paul Put led Burkinabe team believe they will pass the stars test and reach the finals.
“Nobody had the belief in us so now it is our chance to prove something. Our confidence has grown since making the quarterfinals and who knows what can happen in the semi finals .”
So which West African drum beats will be the loudest? Burkina Faso’s ‘Dafra’ ,Ghana’s ‘Dondo’, Malis ‘Djembe’ or Nigeria’s ‘Dun Dun’?
Whatever the rhythm it should make for some good dancing…