Writing about the AFCON 2013 after the Super Eagles triumph would seem such an easy task, but only for the hypocrites. To see people make a 360 degrees detour from calling them “Super Chickens” to “Super Eagles”, and to watch “the undisputed draw-masters” become “the true kings of Africa” in 7 days is an intrigue Kim Kardashian will dream of having on her Reality TV show. It was just as if the Eagles were waiting for the completion of the Knockout Stages to really display all the great qualities that sets them apart from other avians: vision, aggression, agility, decisiveness, and flair. The Eagles did not just win the the knockout stage matches by the scoreline, they equally won by the performance. They were truly deserving champions after dominating Zambia - the defending champions; Cote D’Ivoire – the pre-tournament clear favourites; Mali – a tournament favourite; and Burkina Faso – the conqueror of Ghana (a pre-tournament favourite). The vigour with which I criticized the Eagles when they looked like they have lost their wings is the same vigour with which I have to surpass now that they are soaring higher than our imagination.
Expectedly, just as I projected, the competition opened up in the last round of group stage matches and it never went back to sleep. Highlights of the tournament include debutantes Cape Verde bracing all the odds to make it to the knockout stage; defending champions Zambia crashing out in the first round; all the North African representatives crashing out in the first round; Cote D’Ivoire crashing out against Nigeria without a fight; Nigeria mauling Mali in the Semi Final; and Nigeria deservedly winning the competition having outplayed all their opponents and outscored all the other teams in the competition. It was extremely impressive and highly jingoistic to see Sunday Oliseh on DSTV wearing the garment of an analyst, a job he handled with the same dexterity with which he manned the midfield the last time the Super Eagles won the Trophy in Tunisia ’94.
Amid the euphoria, we must not lose sight of the shortcomings of AFCON 2013: the Mbombela stadium at Nelspruit should never have been part of the competition, not even as a training pitch; most of the Referees at the competition needs to be investigated for ties with betting syndicates because it seemed they were hell-bent on determining the winners and not adjudicating the contests; and lastly, information sharing should be handled more effectively to avoid accusations and insinuations that continues to negatively impact the integrity of CAF and the AFCON itself.
Two thumbs-up to Stephen “Big Boss” Keshi for once again achieving beyond all expectations. He has written his name into the history books of African football. After qualifying unknown Togo for the FIFA World Cup, and leading Togo and Mali to the Nations Cup albeit with less success, this competition provided an opportunity to redeem his image, but he did more than that, he actually cemented his status as a Coach to be reckoned with in Africa. He stood his ground, chose his team on merit and relevance rather than reputation, stuck to his ideals even when results were not forthcoming, tweaked his tactics when necessary while others were tweeting, motivated his lads, and the AFCON trophy is a testament to his ingenuity. The players really deserve kudos for playing their hearts out and immersing themselves into the tasks, this was the tournament where Mikel came of age for Nigeria, where Emenike, Mba, Omeruo, Oboabona, Onazi, Ogude and Ideye announced themselves to Nigerians, where Enyeama once again proved his importance to the Super Eagles; and where the Super Eagles reignited the passion and belief in Nigeria.
In the end, we have to give it to the Bard of Stratford-upon-Avon, his timeless saying “all is well that ends well” also rings true here because Jacob Zuma is presently grinning from ear to ear as he got more than he wished for with African countries actually winning the top three prizes: Nigeria won the Gold, Burkina-Faso made do with the Silver, Mali grabbed the Bronze; and Ghana with all the aiding and abetting by Referees went back home with empty bottles of Alomo Bitters!!!
God Bless Us All!!
See You Next Time!!!
Facebook: Rasheed SirRash Adewusi