Football analysts have received the decision by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to increase competing teams for AFCON from 16 to 24 with mixed feelings.
“It was a huge mistake by CAF to increase the numbers from 16 to 24. It is counter-productive and ridiculous” observes local analyst, Jimmy George.
George argues that the value of the AFCON tournament has been questionable because teams that have won the tournament before were performing badly at the World Cup. “It now going to be all about quantity as opposed to quality,” he reasoned.
He further thinks that AFCON qualifications will be diluted because weak teams are going to qualify and kill the excitement of AFCON qualification eventually leading to a polluted showpiece.
“Teams are going to easily qualify and qualifying will never be special. The tournament has to be exclusive and qualification should be on merit not to just add numbers,” says George.
George observed that CAF made a blunder like FIFA did by increasing teams that will be participating in the World Cup. “The decision by CAF and FIFA was not a wise resolution. FIFA wanted to run away from hosting World Cup using rotational policy. So to FIFA to make other continents like Africa happy they increased the numbers so that nations could keep quiet,” says George.
To him CAF could have evaluated regional tournaments like COSAFA and make a verdict on them; whether they are worth keeping or do away with them.
Aupa Mokotedi welcomed the decision by CAF. “It is a commendable development. It shows that real change has come to CAF. Eight new spots for other CAF member nations to play at the highest level,” Mokotedi says.
He notes the development will lead to improved performance for other countries and eventually challenge power houses such as Senegal, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana and Nigeria.
“The new AFCON will definitely bring about profitability of African football. AFCON will interest far more people in many countries across the continent than the present order. That interest could translate into revenues,” he added.
He concluded by making another suggestion to CAF; “CAF should now scrap CHAN. To me it erodes the excitement brought about by the continental showpiece. No one is taking it seriously. The expanded AFCON has rendered it irrelevant and CAF should avoid flipping the real thing with its shadow,” advised Mokotedi.
Another football commentator, Bakang Moipone, welcomed the new changes. “The new changes are new. It is a good initiative that I embrace,” said Moipone. “The CAF president said the change is to instill competition spirit in African football. It means the tournament will have more teams and small teams are expected to compete against bigger teams. That will instill the spirit of competition,” Moipone explained.
He observed that it will create more revenue for the African teams and set a platform for more companies to inject more money in the tournament/nations. Africa has 55 countries and 24 countries to have teams would mean at least half of the continent is well represented by so doing the support base would increase.
“Imagine the excitement if South Africa, Botswana Zambia or Zambia were to represent SADC in AFCON.”
Moipone commonly known as BK said: “It can improve the economy of African as people across the continent would come to support their teams.”
To Moipone, for the past 10 years AFCON has lost touch and vibe since African teams were left with no choice but to use Africa-based players because teams overseas could not allow their players to leave during mid season while playing in league and competitive tournaments.
The CAF executive committee has also changed the tournament from January to June and July during off season.
CAF also resolved to explore all scientific and medical solutions that could eradicate the phenomenon of age cheating, likewise a research that can help to determine the causes of sudden death among footballers, of which majority of the victims are of African origin.
It will be seen if the national team, Zebras will qualify for the 2019 AFCON tournament. The newly appointed coach, David Bright is expected to reach the COSAFA final next year and also to qualify for AFCON tournament and reach group stages of world cup qualifiers.