Sunday, August 7

The Cup that only Africa wants

  • European clubs are suspicious of a competition that comes at a bad time, in the middle of the league dispute and with the covid decimating the squads

  • The tournament, which starts this Sunday, features a host of stars: Salah, Mendy, Haller, Mahrez, Achraf, Koulibaly …

“If the Euro was played in the middle of a pandemic in several countries and there were no incidents, why shouldn’t the Africa Cup in Cameroon? “, he claimed Samuel Etoo as soon as he was elected president of the Cameroonian Football Federation, less than a month ago. And with the same conviction with which he faced the goal in his stage as a player, the now leader has kept up an edition that has gone through all kinds of problems but this Sunday, despite the discomfort of European clubs and the threat of covid and terrorist groups, will celebrate your Opening match in Yaoundé (Cameroon-Burkina Faso, 5pm, Dazn).

Carrying out the tournament was a matter of national pride. Cameroon slated to host for the summer of 2019, the threat from Boko Haram and the crisis in the English-speaking regions of the country (a double threat of terrorist attacks still ongoing) led the African Football Confederation to relocate the tournament to Egypt and leave Cameroon for the summer of 2021. Until someone pointed out that it would match the rainy season, something very serious in that country, so it was relocated in January (its traditional date until the previous edition), which did not sit well at all in a Europe that saw its leagues once again altered. In any case, the coronavirus, which postponed CAN 2021 until today, already in 2022.

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“A catastrophe” for Klopp

“I cannot respect the African Cup more, but that it is played in the middle of the season is a problem. For Liverpool it is a catastrophe“he laments without qualms Jurgen Klopp, who loses, perhaps for a month, three of his best men: Mohamed Salah (Egypt), Sadio Mané (Senegal) and Nabi Keïta (Guinea). In Spain, Sevilla lose three players (Bono, Munir and En Nesyri) and Villarreal four (Aurier, Mandi, Chukwueze and Boulaye Dia), but it is that Metz yields to seven. “If I prefer to stay with Ajax or go play for my country? Would you ask a European player that question about the European Championship? It is a lack of respect towards Africa“, he released Sebastien haller, Ajax forward, to a Dutch journalist.

The tournament is a problem for many clubs. Partly because the scourge of the covid has wreaked havoc: 18 games postponed in the Premier, 80 positive in Serie A, important outbreaks in teams like Barça, Madrid or City … But the furious reaction from Europe to the celebration of a CAN that many thought would be suspended (There is a lot of fear of contagions in a country that does not reach 5% of vaccinated) also responds to the level of the players who leave. Ligue 1 is, for cultural reasons, the most affected European league (54 called), but the Premier (35) brings more stars.

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The egyptian Incorrect, nominated for The Best; Senegalese Mendy, goalkeeper of the European champion; the Ivorian Haller, top scorer so far in the Champions League; the algerian Mahrez, one of the stars of a whole City; the moroccan Achraf, one of the most sought-after wingers in the world; Senegalese Koulibaly, a center-back with ambitions for the best clubs … It is not usually a big game tournament and the best block usually prevails, but the list of stars on the starting grid is staggering.

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Algeria will defend the title conquered three years ago before Senegal, which by names starts as a favorite but has never achieved the title. Cameroon He will also fight for his sixth crown, although perhaps his great triumph would be that the tournament runs smoothly.

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