Who will really benefit from the amended AFCON?

Confederation of African Football recently amended the continents most prestigious tournament; the cup of nations (AFCON). It was decided at the African Football symposium held in Rabat Morocco that the number of teams have been increased to 24 against the traditional 16 with effect from the Cameroon 2019.

It was also concluded by the executive committee that the competition formally held earlier in the year be staged in June and July.

“Cup of Nations to 24 teams as of the 2019 edition, and the tournament will now be held in the months of June and July. The competition will however remain a biennial event (every two years), odd years and exclusively held on African soil with African national teams.”

Deliberations as to what benefit the organising body (CAF) and the member nations stand to benefit became the discourse among stakeholders. That the tournament is getting bigger is no doubt a welcome idea any day any time should it be commensurate with level of development across board.

For developmental reasons however, the competition affords smaller nations the opportunity to showcase talents who ordinarily would have gone unnoticed if they are unable to qualify for the tournament in the first place.

On the other hand, some have also argued that Africa is yet to make a mark at the global stage especially at senior level, which is really disturbing despite the abundance of talents the continent boasts of. Players from Africa ply their trades for European clubs, China and other parts of the world. They earn fat pay cheques, yet fail to perform optimally at the world stage.

The challenge is not far-fetched. It is obvious that the problem of African football is fundamental, and if nothing is done to savage the situation, the continent may not attain greater heights regardless of the number of teams playing in AFCON.

In terms of the newly proposed date for the tournament which is during summer period, it is all clear. Players would be available to feature for their nations provided there are no carry-over injuries from the season.

Clubs will also be more than happy that this decision is coming as many European club sides have had to deal with releasing their best legs for the Africa cup of nations in January.

President of the Nigeria Football Federation and President of AFCON, Amaju Pinnick who was at the meeting in Rabat put forward his argument as to why the tournament should be expanded.

“This proposal is hinged on sporting, commercial and infrastructural reasons, and we believe that sooner than later, everyone would come to appreciate the position of the proponents of a bigger Africa Cup of Nations.

“George Weah from Liberia became the only African to have been named the World Player of the Year, same year he was voted the African Player of the Year and European Player of the Year. He is from a nation (Liberia) many would consider a minnow in the African game. If we have a bigger AFCON, there will definitely be more talented players coming onto the stage, and we could just discover that the next ‘Weah’ would come from either Djibouti or Botswana.

“For commercial reason, more corporate organizations and stakeholders will be involved and it is certainly a bigger cake for everyone. CAF will be richer and the Member Associations will surely benefit. When UEFA staged the European Championship in 2012, when it was a 16 –team event, they made a profit of $1.5 billion. Last year, when they staged a 24 –team event for the first time, they made $2.1 billion.

“Having a 24 –team AFCON will also compel the development of stadia facilities across the African continent, as CAF will certainly encourage co-hosting, and this will also ginger general infrastructural development in the continent.”

Without doubts, for commercial reasons, the CAF will become more buoyant as stipulated by Mr Amaju Pinnick. In fact, infrastructural development will expectedly be witnessed in member nations. Associations may also get richer and hopefully the largesse from the profit realised after the tournament is expended on solving the core problem.

What shall it profit CAF if an African teams cannot make meaningful impact at the world cup. It is important to begin to think beyond the cup of nations and see how African football clubs can also thrive when matched with their counterparts from other leagues around the world.

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