The 5th edition of African Nations Championship, CHAN organized by the Confederation of African Football CAF, comes up in a few days in Morocco with 16 teams gearing up for the challenge.
The North Africa nation won the bid to host the championship beating Equatorial Guinea to the rights.
This year’s edition features some past winners and newbies with high hopes of proving their mettle on the African continent. Morocco, Uganda, Libya, Sudan, Nigeria, Zambia, Egypt, Namibia, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, Cameroon and Angola are the countries that would be lighting up the four different cities namely Tangier, Casablanca, Agadir and Marrakesh.
Without fear of contradiction, the tournament was designed to help improve home-grown players, clubs cum leagues and national teams at large. With clear directives, only home based players are eligible to feature in the championship, no foreign professional is allowed.
In the past, top African players make their marks and leave footprints on their home soil before leaving for greener pastures in Europe and other parts of the world. What we find in recent times is home based players hungry to leave their country with hopes of getting call ups for the senior national teams having secured a club abroad.
On the part of the players, one must cut them some slack as African national teams are now flooded with foreign based professionals with little or no room for players back home. This has caused many young talents to want to depart with desperation. However, CAF deemed it fit to set up a tournament where these players can be exposed to competition with talents revealed for the main national side.
In fact, some national teams, Libya et al have bulk of their senior players at home, and with championships such as CHAN they are ever ready.
Another important fact is that CHAN is recognised by FIFA, which has added it to the competitions that are considered when setting up FIFA classification. Nations are however beginning to take the competition serious as it boost their chances in terms of ratings.
For the championship proper, Thirty-two (32) match officials were selected from the continent with no Nigerian listed to officiate matches at which runs from January 13th to February 4th 2017.
The list is made up of 16 Referees and 16 Assistant Referees representing 27 Member Associations. The CAF Referees Committee also selected seven match officials to operate as Video Assistant Referees (VAR’s) which will be debuted on the continent at the tournament.
Back home, the Nigerian Super Eagles B squad arrive Morocco about 4 days to the commencement having gone through a rigorous selection process with the coach Salisu Yusuf stating that he has a team that can lift the trophy.
Nigeria takes on Rwanda (hosts of the last edition of the competition two years ago) at the Stade Ibn Batouta on Monday, 15th January, starting from 7.30pm (8.30pm Nigeria time), before games against Libya at the same venue on Friday, 19th January (starting from 4.30pm; 5.30pm Nigeria time) and Equatorial Guinea in Agadir on Tuesday, 23rdJanuary (starting 7pm Morocco time; 8pm Nigeria time).
The country’s best outing was in 2014 when the Eagles won Bronze with Ejike Uzoenyi as a revelation who progressed to the main Super Eagles team.