AFCON 2017: How The Timing Affects Europe Based Players

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The 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, known as the Total Africa Cup of Nations, Gabon 2017 (also referred to as AFCON 2017 or CAN 2017) is the biennial international men’s football championship of Africa organized by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

The Africa’s flagship football tournament, the 31st edition starts today and will end on the 5th of February, 2017.

In the years past, players had always expressed their displeasure at the timing of the tourney which according to them does not favour them especially with their club sides. Expectedly, players who are fighting for regular playing time will surely not welcome playing in AFCON but then they are obliged to play for their countries. We have seen instances where players feign injuries to avoid playing the three week tourney.

Even the clubs with exceptional African players complained about the timing. Chelsea under Mourinho never liked the timing as Didier Drogba, Mikel Obi, Salomon Kalou, Micheal Essien and others would leave the club during the business end of the season. And in some cases, the players could come back injured, fatigued, lose form and lose shirts as the case may be.

Most managers are always skeptical to sign African players knowing fully well the consequences. Former Wigan Manager Roberto Martinez had said the Africa Cup of Nations is a big dissentive to Premier League clubs in signing African players. He even asked FIFA and CAF to make the tournament every four years like the European Championships.

The 2015 edition best player, 25 year old Ghana midfielder Christian Atsu is not happy with the timing of the Africa Cup of Nations to end of the European calendar in order to benefit players, especially those plying their trade in Europe and has urged CAF to review it.
According to him, several African players lose their position at their club sides upon their return from Afcon which is true.

“I think this goes to Caf because they need to realise that when players are doing well [at their club side] and go to Afcon in January, when they come back, there is someone playing in their position and if that person is performing, it is difficult to win it back,” Atsu told TV3.

“Caf need to do something about the tournament in January. It needs to be moved to end of the season. For me when the season ends, a lot more people can watch the Afcon because there is no football. There will be more scouts, more fans and that would mean bigger exposure for African football,” he added.

This year, some managers such as Pep Guardiola, Antonio Conte are lucky. Manchester City for example have no player going as Yaya Toure has officially retired from international duty, while Kelechi Iheanacho’s Nigeria failed to reach the tournament.

However, this year’s edition has seen seven Cameroonian players refusing to play for their country. They are – Joel Matip (Liverpool), André Onana (Ajax d’Amsterdam), Guy Roland Ndy Assembe (Nancy), Allan Nyom (West Bromwich), André Zambo Anguissa (Olympique Marseille), Ibrahim Amadou (Lille), Maxime Poundje (Bordeaux) – who were named in Cameroon’s provisional squad for the tournament, but have refused to play in it, mainly for the reason of club commitments.

There is an arguement from CAF to preserve the tradition. Agreed, gone are the old days when the tournament was dominated with African based players (there were no much Europe based players then). Since the European doors were open to talented and lucky Africans, the AFCON timing became an issue.

The CAF have always defended their actions and in this case, they cited the rainy season which occurs in most parts of the African continent.

Currently, the Afcon is one of only two men’s senior international football tournaments held every two years, but the only one not in the summer, at the end of the European club football season. The other continental championships – European Championship, COPA America and Asian Cup – are held every four years and also in the summer, just like the FIFA competitions – World Cup, Confederations Cup and Olympic Football Tournament.

The only other men’s senior continental championship held every two years is the CONCACAF Gold Cup, but very importantly it is played, unlike the Afcon, in the summer (June/July) and so doesn’t clash with any European club commitments.

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE
CAF as a matter of urgency must review the timing and schedule it to hold after the end of the season when players will be less busy.

CAF should fix the stadiums to avoid them being water logged when the rain falls. we have seen football played under the rain during Champions League and its normal. Fix the stadiums. And how do you fix them? Spend the money.

CAF loves money no doubt and if they want to retain followership of the games, it must be reviewed. They should give the fans more reasons to stay tuned to their TVs or come to the stadiums off season. They shouldnt complicate the fans choices who will want to watch a Liverpool match against Manchester United on Sunday than an Algeria vs Zimbabwe match.

CAF should think of the players welfare and success. Majority are bread winners in their homes and use football to survive and cater for their families. If they lose their shirts and become bench warmers, how will their stock rise? They lose value and invariably cant produce FIFA best players.

Meanwhile, checkout the Europe based players set to feature in this year’s AFCON

Premier League

Max Gradel (Cote d’Ivoire)AFC Bournemouth
Mohamed Elneny (Egypt) Arsenal
Bakary Sako (Mali) Crystal Palace
Wilfried Zaha (Cote d’Ivoire) Crystal Palace

Idrissa Gana Gueye (Senegal)Everton
Ahmed Elmohamady (Egypt)Hull City
Dieumerci Mbokani (Democratic Republic of Congo)Hull City
Daniel Amartey (Ghana)Leicester City
Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)Leicester City
Islam Slimani (Algeria)Leicester City
Sadio Mane (Senegal)Liverpool
Eric Bailly (Cote d’Ivoire)Manchester United
Wilfried Bony (Cote d’Ivoire)Stoke City
Mame Diouf (Senegal)Stoke City
Ramadan Sobhi (Egypt)Stoke City
Didier Ndong (Gabon)Sunderland
Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia)Sunderland
Lamine Kone (Cote d’Ivoire)Sunderland
Nordin Amrabat (Morocco)Watford
Adlene Guedioura (Algeria)Watford
Andre Ayew (Ghana)West Ham United
Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal)West Ham United

Ligue 1
Famara Diedhiou (Senegal)Angers SCO
Karl Toko Ekambi (Cameroon)Angers SCO
Cheikh N’Doye (Senegal)Angers SCO
Nicolas Pepe (Cote d’Ivoire)Angers SCO
Nabil Dirar (Morocco)AS Monaco
Adama Traore (Mali)AS Monaco
Serge N’Guessan (Cote d’Ivoire)AS Nancy Lorraine
Youssef Ait Bennasser (Morocco)AS Nancy Lorraine
Cheikh M’Bengue (Senegal)AS Saint-Etienne
Henri Saivet (Senegal)AS Saint-Etienne
Mehdi Abeid (Algeria)Dijon FCO
Fouad Chafik (Morocco)Dijon FCO
Jordan Ikoko (Democratic Republic of Congo)En Avant de Guingamp
Yves Bissouma (Mali)Lille OSC
Youssouf Kone (Mali)Lille OSC
Hamza Mendyl (Morocco)Lille OSC
Mounir Obbadi (Morocco)Lille OSC
Naim Sliti (Tunisia)Lille OSC
Benjamin Moukandjo (Cameroon)Lorient
Zargo Toure (Senegal)Lorient
Cheick Doukoure (Cote d’Ivoire)Metz
Georges Constant Mandjeck (Cameroon)Metz
Ismaila Sarr (Senegal)Metz
Yacouba Sylla (Mali)Montpellier HSC
Jean Seri (Cote d’Ivoire) OGC Nice
Rachid Ghezzal (Algeria)Olympique Lyonnais
Nicolas Nkoulou (Cameroon)Olympique Lyonnais
Clinton Njie (Cameroon)Olympique de Marseille
Serge Aurier (Cote d’Ivoire)Paris Saint-Germain
Lassana Coulibaly (Mali)SC Bastia
Syam Ben Youssef (Tunisia)SM Caen
Ramy Bensebaini (Algeria)Stade Rennais
Steeve Yago (Burkina Faso)Toulouse

La Liga

Thomas Partey (Ghana)Atletico Madrid
Faycal Fajr (Morocco)Deportivo de La Coruna
Victorien Angban (Cote d’Ivoire)Granada
Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez (Morocco)Granada
Youssef En-Nesyri (Morocco)Malaga
Bakary Kone (Burkina Faso)Malaga
Papekouli Diop (Senegal)RCD Espanyol
Aissa Mandi (Algeria)Real Betis
Aymen Abdennour (Tunisia) Valencia
Cedric Bakambu (Democratic Republic of Congo)Villarreal

Bundesliga
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon)Borussia Dortmund
Marcel Tisserand (Democratic Republic of Congo) FC Ingolstadt 04
Nabil Bentaleb (Algeria)FC Schalke 04
Baba Abdul Rahman (Ghana)FC Schalke 04
Bernard Tekpetey (Ghana)FC Schalke 04
Salomon Kalou (Cote d’Ivoire)Hertha BSC
Sambou Yatabare (Mali)SV Werder Bremen

Serie A
Mohamed Salah (Egypt) AS Roma
Franck Kessie (Cote d’Ivoire)Atalanta BC
Saphir Taider (Algeria)Bologna FC 1909
Djamel Mesbah (Algeria)Crotone
Serge Gakpe (Togo)Genoa
Medhi Benatia (Morocco)Juventus
Mario Lemina (Gabon)Juventus
Omar El Kaddouri (Morocco)SSC Napoli
Faouzi Ghoulam (Algeria)SSC Napoli
Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal)SSC Napoli
Keita Balde Diao (Senegal)SS Lazio
Afriyie Acquah (Ghana)Torino
Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu (Ghana)Udinese Calcio
Molla Wague (Mali)Udinese Calcio

•Sport writer/blogger • Media strategist •Good citizen of Nigeria and Social Media Evangelist and a core die hard Real Madrid fan.

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