January 1, 2000
With Christmas and New Year a few weeks behind us, the domestic scene is hotting up as we move well into the second half of the season.
Clubs at the top of respective Leagues will be keen to push on for Divisional Championships, runner up spots, or at least promotion. Quite often teams at the top at Christmas find the second half of the season more difficult and tend to slip away. Clubs emerge from a mid table position to challenge, whilst others sink to join the relegation contenders.
There is no doubting that managers at ‘all levels will be seeking to bolster their squads as the transfer window moves towards the end of January. On the other hand club chairmen may be looking to strengthen finances with the selling of the odd prize asset or two. There is a mix of course whereby a good bit of transfer income is used to strengthen groups of players overall.
Watch the websites with interest and fascination. There may be movements at management level too; never a dull moment in professional football. Come May there will be winners and by the same token losers; don’t go there!
The FA Cup will add to the interest as the knockouts progress to the latter stages but moving outside of the domestic box my wider interest in the development of the game is drawn to the other cup competition that is taking place at this time; The 2012 African Cup of Nations. Now that pro footballers play in the global arena the ACN will impact on the English scene as key players from Premier and Football League Clubs are lost for a good number of football matches.
Wikipedia tells us this:
The 2012 Africa Cup of Nations will be the 28th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, the football championship of Africa organized by the Confederation of African Football (CAF). It will be co hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. For the first time in CAF history, the hosts of three successive tournaments were chosen at the same time; Angola was chosen to host in 2010, Gabon/Equatorial Guinea were chosen as hosts for the 2012 cup and Libya for the 2013 edition. Nigeria was chosen as a standby host in the event that one of the chosen nations were to become unsuitable.
So when, and how often, does the tournament take place then, every year, every two years or when the organisers feel like it? Not sure to be honest but what I do know is that there is intense effort being put into football all over Africa and support from more developed areas is welcome, appreciated and necessary.
Sixteen Nations have qualified this time around and include five previous winners. Morocco, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Tunisia and Sudan have all lifted the trophy in the past whilst this year Equatorial Guinea, Niger and Botswana qualify for the finals for the first time. Funny that Equatorial Guinea play hosts having never qualified before and without kicking a ball this time around but has not the precedence for this not been set elsewhere? It’s all about development it seems.
The opening match, one semi final and the third place match will be held in Equatorial Guinea while the other semi final and the final will be held in Gabon. Talking about development, this includes stadia as well as playing and coaching and I have to say they do not look half bad.
In Gabon the Stade dAngondle at Libreville looks first class and has a capacity of 40,000. Equatorial Guinea also boasts a 30,000 venue with the equally impressive Estadio de Bata. At the other end of the scale the first timers also boast of a new and modern looking 15,250 arena in Malabo with a capacity of 15,250; one that would for most of the lower league English and Welsh clubs no doubt and even a few in the Championship clubs from time to time.
I have surfed the web in earnest to find out which English League players have been selected by their respective nations, and I have come up with ten. My apologies to any I have missed. Leading the pack are four from the Premier League comprising Mohamed Diame from Wigan Athletic, Marouane Chamakh from Arsenal, the in form Demba Ba who is at Newcastle and one to watch for Bertrand Traore from Chelsea who I understand to be just 16 years of age. Also included are the Toure brothers from Manchester City, two from QPR, Armand Traore and Adel Tabbabt, one from Birmingham City, Guirane N’Daw and John Paitsil from Leicester. Good luck to all of them, they will surely benefit from the experience and do much to help the footballing cause in Africa
Want to take in a few games? My information is that you will find them all live on Eurosport. Light relief from the Premier, Scottish, Football League and Spanish for sure.