NANA KWASI GYAN-APENTENG’S AFCON 2024 DIARY –9 (MOST OF) THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN
First, let’s deal with the small matter of the name of the current AFCON. This 34th AFCON is known as both AFCON 23 and AFCON 23. Officially it is AFCON 2023 because it was billed for last July but was postponed to early this year because of weather concerns in Ivory Coast in the Northern Hemisphere summer. Be that as it may, the tournament is taking place in 2024, and long after the reason for the switch is forgotten, the pedantic use of 23 to describe an event in 24 will confuse researchers, administrators, enthusiasts and all those who may have reasons to refer to this AFCON. It is for this reason that I stick to AFCON 2024 in my diaries.
Now, to the main issue. If I were a betting man, I would have lost badly because the two teams I tipped for the final are both out. I predicted a final between Senegal, the holders and Morocco, the World Cup quarter finalists. On current form, and especially in terms of confidence, I thought these two would emerge from the ranks to the top. Of course, it did not happen. Congratulations to South Africa for emerging winners last night.
This AFCON has seen the early departure of most of the continents football grandmasters such as Ghana, Egypt, Cameroon, Senegal, and Morocco. Whether Ghana still belongs to the elite group is debatable, but that is not the point. Indeed, the point is that the old order has changed, yielding place to a new one in which there are no minnows.
Of course, South Africa, Nigeria and Ivory Coast are part of the old elite and may well prove that there is no new order after all. However, given how this tournament has travelled, there is no denying the emergence of a new structure in the African game. Respect for past glory is now a risible concept, as has been shown by all three of Ghana’s group games and the performance of a team like Cape Verde.
My two teams for the final are out. I have learnt my lesson. No predictions now. It will take a major gambler to stake all on a winner on February 11th. Better to hedge a bit because nothing is certain in African football.