Myth busting the Africa Cup of Nations

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Jonny Singer reports from Bata, Equatorial Guinea on some of the myths surrounding the perception of African football…

The majority of European fans, and English fans in particular, watch very little African football. Our experiences tend to be based around World Cups, the odd player who plays in our leagues, and a passing interest in the Africa Cup of Nations every couple of years.

It is therefore not surprising that, while everyone here in Equatorial Guinea has warned against backing the Ivory Coast, in the UK they remain the bookies’ favourite.

Who cares that they conceded 11 times in six qualifying games? They have Yaya and Kolo Toure, Wilfried Bony, Gervinho, Salomon Kalou, Serge Aurier, Serey Die. We’ve heard of all those players – they must be good.

So when minnows Guinea, a country whose only English-based player is Sheffield Wednesday’s Kamil Zayatte, took the lead on Tuesday night, it might have come as a bit of a shock. It’s highly likely that those punters who put money on this tournament from the UK are going to be parted with it – and not inconceivable that it might even happen during the group stage.

But misconceptions about African football run deeper than not knowing which teams are in form. There are two myths that have somehow survived about the game on this continent that have very little basis. First, that the standard of refereeing here is significantly lower than in the European game, and secondly, that the goalkeepers are something of a joke. Continue reading

CAN 2015: Coupe d’Afrique des Nations Should Be Embraced Not Dismissed Out Of Hand

Raj Bains explains why it’s time to stop deriding or ignoring the Africa Cup of Nations… 

A lot of people have been falling out of love with football this week. In the absence of top tier league matches, the international break has been sadly overshadowed by the hateful trifecta of Ched Evans, Dave Whelan and Malky Mackay, who have all done their level best to embody all of what is wrong with society in the most unwelcome trio since Take That announced Jason Orange had left. That said, we football fans are understandably in need of a reminder as to why exactly we love this game as much as we do. Look away now Whelan and Mackay, because I’m about to say some very complimentary things about the upcoming Coupe d’Afrique des Nations – for shame!

In truth, it’s incredibly easy to knock CAN if one were that way inclined. While most flirt with grossly patronising an entire continent when they talk of the quality of the football played, the CAN is regularly one of the finest footballing spectacles of the season every time it roles around. Lazily rehashed stereotypes are usually commonplace in discussions regarding Africa’s show-piece tournament, so you’ll invariably be told about how poor the goalkeeping will be, and how the lack of skill will be offset by lots of incredible athletes. While that’s all just a slight sidestep away from accusing black players of being unable to perform in the cold, it’s also entirely false. Continue reading