Football: An Africa Cup made in heaven and hell
National chauvinism and football are bedfellows. As the Africa Cup of Nations (ACN) football tournament kicks off in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, the phenomenon brought out the best and the worst.
With 12 of the winners of the past 14 tournaments not taking part, the ACN 2012 is an open stage for first-time minnows and seasoned under-performers to make sporting history and become national heroes.
The increased presence of home-grown managers shows a confidence in national talent: seven African managers will be at the tournament, compared to two in 2010. From first-time qualifiers Botswana, led by Stanley Tshosane, to tournament-favourites Côte d’Ivoire, led by François Zahoui, this year’s participants have been trained by up-and-coming African tacticians.
Senegal’s Amara Traoré, Tunisia’s Sami Trabelsi and Angola’s ‘Lito’ Vidigal, are former players who were successful in the 1980s and 1990s, for both their clubs and their countries. As managers, they are now bringing that experience to bear.
More sinister are the rumours of the xenophobic ejection of African immigrants post-Cup. Gabon and Equatorial Guinea are both oil exporters, and host large numbers of immigrants from West and Central Africa.
While Communauté Economique et Monétaire de l’Afrique Centrale (CEMAC) regulations call for the free circulation of people in Central Africa, immigrants in Gabon say that the government has stopped issuing new residence permits and still demands visas for CEMAC residents.
The Groupe de Recherche et d’Action sur les Migrations en Afrique Centrale notes that both countries regularly expel migrants and has called for a boycott of the ACN. While the co-hosts issued joint visas for the tournament, immigrants were leaving in their hundreds before 21 January, fearing an immigration crackdown as the festivities reached their end.
Gabon’s 2012 CAN effect
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