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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Beat at Africa Feet in Johannesburg

The 29th edition of Africa Cup of Nations started in Johannesburg, South Africa on Saturday 19th of January 2013, under the theme "The Beat at Africa Feet."

The sound of Vuvuzelas heard once again in South Africa
The tournament kicked off with a 30 minutes colorful ceremony at FNB Stadium, named National Stadium for the purposes of the AFCON 2013. It was music and dance with South African musicians as well as Ouma Sangare from Mali who had to withdraw after slipping on a wet surface and breaking her leg. She was replaced by the ceremony’s musical director, Sibongile Khumalo. Eric Wainana  was  invited from Kenya. 

In 2010, South Africa became the first African country to host the FIFA World Cup when it hosted the 19th FIFA World Cup in June and July 2010. An expression was crafted to describe the mood: “Feel it, it’s here” which was turned into “Phillip is here!” 

They also became the first host nation to get knocked out of the tournament in the group stage. South Africa was hoping to (re)capture the same mood, feel and atmosphere for the AFCON 2013, however a counple of glitches, late activation of the marketing campaign, journalists accreditation, train transporting supporters breaking down and fans missing opening ceremony. 

The official AFCON 2013 song “Sela Sela” (Dance Together) by Wes Madiko and Zahra Universe did not received as much airplay as “Waka Waka” in 2010. To be fair, the South African organizing Committee took over from Libya. They had to organize everything at the last minute with limited means in cities like Cape Town, which did not agree on terms with the Government on how much should be spent. It feels like a missed opportunity as not much has been done to drum up support for the tournament. 

The first game saw South Africa, the Bafan Bafana team, plays against Cape Verde, the Indomitable Lions slayers. Thousands of fans braved the rain and made their way to the national stadium in Soweto to support their national team. One must point out that Soweto has not fared well lately.

One was reminded of the opening game of the World Cup in 2010 by the piercing loud annoying yet sweet sound of  the 'Vuvuzela.' The 'Vuvuzela' is a local  South African instrument that has taken its place in the annals of soccer. 

Thousands of fans stood up and sang Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika in unison with gusto. One could feel the passion and pride in those voices lifted up in the cold and wet evening. 

The game itself did not live up to the expectations with a lackluster performance by both teams. More so from the South African team which was backed by the whole nation, lately hungry for victories . With the appointment of Gordon Igesund as national coach, hopes were high as he is undoubtedly the most successful local coach in South Africa.

 Despite the starting line comprising 6 players from Kaizer Chiefs, the team at the top of the log in South Africa, Cape Verde proved to be a difficult nut to crack. One could understand why Cameroon is absent. Most fans left after the first game, only die hard soccer fans and second games fans remained to witness another dull performance between Morocco and Angola.


Hopes are high for the national South African Coach Gordon Igesund
The AFCON 2013 was given impetus with the second rounds of games, especially between Ghana and DR Congo which ended 2 -2 draw with a memorable celebratory dance from the Congolese keeper. Keita, who is eyeing gold opened the scoring for his country, helped Mali to secure 3 points from their game against Niger. The title holder Zambia was held to a 1 -1 draw by Ethiopia on their return to the continental stage after more than 30 years.

 Nigeria and Burkina Faso played an enthralling fast paced and entertaining game which unfortunately also ended in a 1 – 1 draw. Stephen Keshi told reporters after the game that he will let everything die down, let players sleep off the game. Then, if he had to, he will pick it up the following day as that game is gone and he will prepare them for the game against Zambia. Unlike Gordon Igesund from South Africa who said his players froze and some were hiding, Claude le Roy from DR Congo was full of praises for his players and said they might just surprise the continent. 

Overall the second rounds of games have seen more positive comments from fans and viewers with goals being scored. Cote d’Ivoire with the a squad full of super stars and the most expensive based on combined salary will be taking stage soon with hopes of a nation on Didier Drogba.

The 29th edition of Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa seems to have picked up pace with all those games and many more to come. The sound of Vuvuzelas is back in many a sitting room until the 10th of February with CNN naming the period “Vuvuzela month” in South Africa. For more information about the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, please visit the official website of the Confederation of African Football  (CAF) at http://www.cafonline.com/

This story was originally written by Morten Herace
Born in Douala Cameroon, Herace has graduated from the Cameroonian State University of Soa. He moved to South Africa in 1996. Since then, he has worked in various African countries in Banking, Telecom, Marketing. He is currently a consultant at the biggest British Consulting Engineering Firm in South Africa. Also, he is the owner and managing director of the consulting firm Biz Africa Marketing. His hobbies include listening and playing music (acoustic guitar), and he is keen martial art practitioner as a Black Belt 3rd Dan Tae Kwondo. He is the Chairman of the South African chapter of "Bridge The Gap" chapter, an NGO founded by the Cameroonian Alain Moulen based in France.