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Southern Region teams disappoint in Afcon

There has been much less interest among Zimbabweans in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations finals which are underway in the Equatorial Guinea.

INSIDE SPORT WITH MICHAEL MADYIRA

In the past, during such a big event, there would be talk or debate everywhere on whom soccer fans thought would win the tournament. But this time around, it has been more to do with the Barclays Premiership or the La Liga instead of the Africa Cup of Nations.

Whether this is to do with the absence from the competition of Zimbabwe’s Warriors or three time winners, the Super Eagles of Nigeria, or the absence of seven time winners — the Pharaohs of Egypt — it is not clear.

But history tells us that even though the Pharaohs were not there at the last edition of the African football festival in South Africa where the hosts were a big disappointment, the tournament still had a lot of following.

One thing that has come out clear is the impact of African players in the respective teams they play for and in particular, the absence of Yaya Toure from Manchester City.

I am a close follower of the other half of Manchester — that is the Red Devils — but I would also be happy to see the Citizens in full throttle, especially when they play Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal. This is because I do not want their followers to have excuses that they lost because they missed their top players.

The point is that when Manchester City lost 2-0 to Arsenal, the talk everywhere was that the loss was because Yaya Toure was not there, and it is true.

Yaya has proved a point — that African footballers are good, if not better, than those who come from other parts of the world, and because of his absence during this time of the season, the Citizens might not be in a position to defend the league title.

It can be argued that one man does not make up a team. But so far, it has been proved that one man can make a difference, especially at Manchester City.
It is saddening though that Yaya has not been all that influential in the orange jersey of the Elephants of the Ivory Coast.

I am not sure whether Yaya is in the same class with the likes of our own Peter Ndlovu, or the great Abedi Pele of Ghana, Nwankwo Kanu of Nigeria, or George Weah of Liberia, but one thing for sure is that he has proved a point — that players from this part of the world are equally as good as those from South America where football is more of a religion.

This is the reason why European football clubs were clamouring to have the Africa Cup of Nations moved from January to May when their season will be on break.

Deteriorating standards

Another thing that has also come out of the Nations Cup is the deteriorating standards of southern African football.

I would be surprised if one of the southern African teams, South Africa and Zambia, make it to the semifinals or even the quarter finals. The two teams do not fit the profile of Africa champions and so far, they have been disappointing.

The decline in standards has been going on for some time. At one time, Angola were regulars at this tournament while the likes of Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, also made it to the finals. But the situation today is very much different as less and less teams from the region are qualifying for the Nations Cup finals.

Our clubs only make up the numbers in the CAF Champions League and the CAF Confederation Cup. The last time a southern African team won an African competition was way back in 1995 when Orlando Pirates won the then Africa Cup of Club Champions.

More importantly is the fact that a look at southern Africa shows that fewer and fewer of our footballers are making it to Europe.

It is disheartening that Zimbabwe’s top footballers see their ultimate destination as South Africa when that country’s national team itself is sliding down the ladder in Africa.

There is need to have a relook at the whole Cosafa Cup tournament and see whether it is benefiting nations or not. Countries are not taking the tournament seriously, and that is the reason why South Africa use third string sides for the contest.

However, as Zimbabweans, we need to improve and ensure that our domestic football league competes against the best in Africa so that we export our players to Europe and hopefully qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations finals, or even the World Cup.

l For comments, views and suggestions, email: mkariati@gmail.com or WhatsApp on 077 3 266 779.

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