Monday, September 24, 2007

New contest just for home-based players

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the African soccer confederation CAF. Formed in August 1957, CAF has since been based in Cairo, Egypt. The founding countries are Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan and South Africa.

CAF has been holding a wide range of celebratory/commemoratory events across the continent to mark its golden jubilee. Among them is the announcement of a new contest exclusively for African footballers that play in their respective home countries.

It is the African Championship of Nations (ACN) and the qualifiers for the very first tournament kick off next year. The finals are in 2009. CAF, officially known as Confederation Africain de Football, announced this new contest at its Executive Committee meeting in South Africa on Tuesday September 11, 2007. The ACN will feature competing national teams, much like the Cup of African Nations (CAN). However, Africans playing overseas or in African countries other than their respective home nations will not be eligible.

The finals will field eight nations, competing in a host country every two years. The tournament comes up in odd-number years like 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015, to alternate with the well-established biennial CAN that comes up in even-number years. The inaugural qualifying matches take place in 2008. One of these qualifiers will host the finals of the new tournament. The very first tournament is in 2009.

CAF president Issa Hayatou, in commenting, said: “....we strive to give local players the chance to showcase their talents....to bring to a higher level the national championships in Africa.” Hayatou goes on: ”We have created a new competition that will showcase the best national teams of Africa, exclusively featuring players who are active in their respective countries and are qualified to play in the current season.” Expatriate players cannot take part, according to CAF media.

For the qualifiers the continent will be divided into the following Zones: North, West A, West B, Central, East and South. Each will have one representative at the finals, except the South zone, which will send two qualifying nations. The eighth qualifier will be the host nation.

CAF has an elaborate continent-wide programme to mark its golden jubilee. Among a various promotional and commemorative schemes, the confederation will host a special awards ceremony this December. Then, Eleven of the best African players in the past 50 years will be honoured. Albert ‘Roger’ Milla of Cameroun tops the list. Milla, at 38 years of age, excelled at the 1990 World Cup in Italy. Then, Cameroun beat defending champions Argentina in the group phase. Though Cameroun lost the match, Roger Milla also scored against Russia at the 1994 World Cup in the USA, four years later.

CAF will hold the next Cup of African Nations in 2008 in Ghana, from January 20 to February 10. The 2010 edition will be in Angola while Gabon/Equatorial Guinea will host the 2012 series. CAN 2014 will be held in Libya.

CAF: New contest just for home-based players