Emmanuel Adebayor has threatened to pull out of the AFCON tournament in South Africa due to his side’s poor planning. The tournament is just a few months away from kick-off, and it continues to run into problems. There’s some time left to ensure everything goes off without a hitch, but not much, and the LOC needs to get moving. By ANT SIMS.
With the African Cup of Nations just a few months away, Togo captain Emmanuel Adebayor has threatened not to show up for the tournament, owing to his team’s poor preparation for the showpiece.
The striker scored one of Togo’s goals, helping them to a 3-2 aggregate win in a play-off over Gabon, which secured the team’s spot at the continental tournament.
The tournament is due to be hosted in South Africa in January.
Togo’s team is in one of the most difficult groups, where they will face the Ivory Coast, Algeria and Tunisia in Durban, but Adebayor has no idea what is planned for the team in order to help them prepare for the tournament.
"We might as well stay with our clubs if we have to make all these efforts to qualify, just to show poorly in South Africa next January," Adebayor told Radio Frequence 1.
“As I am talking to you, I have no idea what is planned for our preparation and our stay in Durban."
AFCON 2013 has had nothing but bad press in the build-up, with ticket sales being poor, referees being quarantined amidst match-fixing fears, and concerns over whether the pitch for the final would be ready. (A concert is scheduled to be held at the FNB Stadium just a few days before the final will take place.)
The Local Organising Committee has been putting out fires left, right and centre, trying to calm any unrest surrounding the country’s readiness to host the tournament. And while they insisted the pitch would be in perfect condition, they can do little to convince players who opt for club over country when the tournament dawns.
It’s not doom and gloom for all the players taking part, though. Chelsea man and Nigerian international Victor Moses was far more upbeat about his participation. The 21-year-old, who’ll be playing in his first AFCON tournament, said that he was already preparing – adding that African football was unique and that the tactics were completely different to the kind of game played at overseas clubs.
“This will be my first Africa Cup of Nations, and I want to make it a memorable one by doing my best and giving Nigeria all I’ve got. It will be an honour for me to represent Nigeria at this stage in African football, after accepting to play for the country in short a time. I want to take my club form to play at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations,” Moses said.
“I am already focusing on what will happen in South Africa, because African football has its own peculiarities. You have to be strong and determined to do well against an African side, and I am already tuning my mind to the tackles and strong challenges in all the matches,” he added.
Moses also had plenty of praise for coach Stephen Keshi, who took charge of Nigeria in 2011. He insists that his team will be ready to take on the best.
“I think I am equal to the task because I am also a strong player. No matter the way you look at the Super Eagles, we have a good team that can win the trophy. Stephen Keshi has been able to build the fighting spirit in us, and Nigerians will see a new team during the Africa Cup of Nations,” he said.
AFCON is a slippery slope for team managers and local organisers, though. The prize money on offer for the tournament winners is scant, the crowds are sparse and the glory isn’t great as that associated with the English Premier League.
The LOC needs big-name African stars to show up and shine, so that they can be used as draw cards for the tournament. But in order to do that, they have to compete with foreign money and a football culture which exalts players to deity status.
While Adebayor might insist that his decision is purely based on his team’s disinterest, his status in England will no doubt play a part. On paper, the AFCON notion is quaint, but the challenges the tournament faces are mounting and the clock for kick-off is ticking.
The LOC has to get moving if it wants to capture the imaginations of the people of South Africa, even without big-name players. The advertising for the tournament has been virtually non-existent in some of the host cities.
It would serve the LOC well to ensure they pull off the tournament with pizzazz, even if it means some last-minute fumbling to pull a couple of rabbits out of a hat. Instead, so far it seems more likely that the tournament will fizzle out in the most forgettable way – distinguished only as a failed attempt at reviving some of the 2012 World Cup spirit. DM
Photo: Tottenham Hotspur's Emmanuel Adebayor reacts after a missed opportunity during their English Premier League soccer match against Aston Villa at White Hart Lane in London November 21, 2011. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh.