Over the years, sport in general and football in particular has grown so big, attractive and profitable to the extent that Africans are increasingly embracing sports as a means not only for development but also as a useful mechanism for closing the wide gap between Africa and its European counterparts.
Since the inception of Africa cup of nations (AFCON) in 1957, the competition has gained global recognition and has been a platform for Africa to showcase the talents she possesses. With Egypt being the state with most cup victories, the competition has seen states present their best players to represent them. In recent times, football, has been a medium through which the strength, unity and resilience of Africa is displayed. In 2006, after helping Ivory coast qualify for the world cup, captain, Didier Drogba, challenged president Gbagbo to bring an end to the 5-year civil war that had ravaged the country. He made a desperate arm plea to the militias to lay down their arms which they did and this resulted to a ceasefire that saw the end of a five-year civil war.
With just two months to the commencement of the 2015 AFCON, Morocco which was to be the host pulled out of hosting the competition. Their decision was solely as a result of the Ebola virus which had killed nearly 2000 Guineans. Equatorial Guinea stepped in to host the competition hereby saving Africa of an impending disgrace. The support gotten by teams at the stadium showed the strength, determination and fighting spirit of Africans to stand firm as one irrespective of the challenges ebola poised. Ivory coast became champions after defeating Ghana (9-8) on penalties. Africans were jubilant irrespective of the epidemic ravaging in parts of the continent. Through the competition, Africa stood up collectively to fight stigmatization and changed the narrative. We were able to let the whole world know we can overcome Ebola and we will.
The 2019 edition of the Africa cup of nations currently holds in Egypt. Though there have been major changes to the number of teams competing, the excitement hasn’t lost its taste. New states with little or no experience in the competition are demonstrating that they are no pushovers. Madagascar defeating Nigeria (2-0) is so far the biggest upset in the competition and we expect to see more as the competition nears its final stages. Big names in football who ply their skills in Europe have graced the competition with their scintillating runs, skills and goals. Footballers who play in the continent have also displayed talents and have been a joy to watch. The competition has over the years made Africa a tourist destination which invariably contributes immensely to Africa’s economy.
Through AFCON, there is an elaborate exposure to the cultures and traditional values that are highly upheld by Africans. Many foreigners who had myopic view of African states have been better exposed to the beauties of the land and the warmth of the people. Football has been well received by Africa. Also, the women world cup is still ongoing and through it has been an increased push for equality. Women, through this competition, have shown skills, professionalism and sustained the buzz that comes with football. More females are beginning to show interest in the sport and the African narrative that a woman’s place is in the kitchen is currently becoming outdated.