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Chronic. Like every two years, attacks have resumed against the African Cup of Nations (CAN). Between Jürgen Klopp, the Liverpool coach, who calls her “Little competition”, Frédéric Antonetti, who complains that his team, FC Metz, is plucked, the English club Watford who tried to take Senegalese Ismaïla Sarr hostage and the more or less organized rumors that circulated about his possible cancellation, we have had the right to a festival to defeat the CAN.
It must be said that the “Small competition” is full of “small players”: Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané, Edouard Mendy, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Riyad Mahrez, Achraf Hakimi… Only “bench shiners” in second-class teams: Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, Paris-Saint-Germain… And when Antonetti fulminates by threatening not to recruit any more African players, he can afford it: it is “only” seven or eight players of his workforce who are affected by the CAN , it is obvious that he will be able to find such good ones on every street corner …
One might wonder why the European clubs do not draw their sulphate so quickly to duck other competitions. Take, for example, the Copa America qualifiers. South American internationals fly throughout the year to compete. Trips of several thousand kilometers, embellished with a time difference, which makes them miss a total of more days of the championship than the CAN. And we are not talking about the third goalkeeper of Royal Excel Mouscron or the former glory in pre-retirement at Mumbai City FC: it is about superstars like Messi, Neymar, Suarez, Vinicius Junior, etc.
And why not postpone the Euro, while we’re at it? Many players experience a roller coaster season after this competition. In the middle of summer vacation, this deprives the clubs of major players who are starting their championship at the same time. And when they don’t come back injured, they have less recovery time …
Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané, irresponsible people?
All players know it: the national team is sacred. An injured Messi who misses Ligue 1 matches but flies to Argentina to participate in international matches only provokes the annoyed reaction of a handful of PSG supporters. Kevin de Bruyne is a courageous and patriotic Belgian because he played down against Italy at the Euro. And what about Zinedine Zidane at the 2002 World Cup? A hero who dribbled on one leg in an attempt to save a nation adrift.
Yes, but curiously, when it comes to Africans, it is the clubs that are sacred. So, to listen to their leaders, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané – in good shape and in good health – are irresponsible people who are endangering the season of their Liverpool team because they go to the CAN.
The CAN should have taken place in the summer of 2021, but the Covid-19 has been there. The pandemic has become a pretext to question the maintenance of competition. Remember that Africa has been less damaged by the virus than Europe and that in this period, it circulates less than on the “old continent”. However, the European stadiums which hosted unvaccinated spectators without a gauge a few months ago were less of a concern.
Logically, Cameroon, the host country, would have been justified in asking for measures to supervise players from Europe to participate in its tournament. But it was the European clubs that got FIFA to keep their athletes longer before they joined their squads. With the risk that they catch the Covid and that they miss the CAN.
Africa may have an impressive pool of players, in quantity and quality, African football is held high. A famous African proverb says: “As long as the lions do not have their historians, the hunting tales will always be in the glory of the hunter.” »It is time that we respect the Indomitable Lions, of Teranga and the Atlas, but also the Fennecs, the Squirrels, the Elephants, the Scorpions, the Pharaohs, the Eagles or the Coelacanths, who have sharpened their fangs to become over the CAN hunters writing their own history.
Mabrouck Rachedi is a Franco-Algerian writer whose passion for football was born at 6 years old during the Algeria-FRG match of the 1982 World Cup. Next novel: All the words we haven’t said to each other ed. Grasset, January 26.
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CAN 2022: “Despite impressive players, African football is taken from the top”