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AFCON 2023 On My Mind  –Odegbami

AFCON 2023 On My Mind  –Odegbami

I wish everyone on the planet a very Happy New Year.

2023 was a year marked by crisis around the world. Existential threats hung like an Albatross over humanity as tensions and tempers rose in several parts of the world. Senseless killings are ongoing everywhere even as 2023 draws its curtains

However, of all human activities, Sport stands out as an ultimate unifier, immune from the vagaries of cultural, political, historical and economic differences.

As we enter 2024, my prayer is that, somehow, man shall realize that peace is the ultimate catalyst for man’s greatest pursuit on earth – Happiness!

In my little corner of the world in Wasimi Orile, I have the African Cup of Nations, AFCON 2023, on my mind.

Also Read: The Exit Of An Unusual Eagle – Philip Boamah!  –Odegbami

For those of us in the business of football in Africa, the biennial championship provides the best times and opportunities for rich business harvests around it. We join various national teams and their thousands of supporters from all corners of the continent to congregate in an African country, and for a whole month, feast on the best of African football and Africa’s best footballers. Around the football matches, we find social, cultural and economic activities that enrich the AFCON and make it extra-special.

This time around, the 24-nation championship takes place close to home, in Cote D’Ivoire, the country of Diedre Drogba, Yaya Toure and several other great African football legends.

The 34th biennial championship starts on January 13, 2024, and ends on February 11, 2024.

It will take place in 6 venues across 5 cities in the French West African country.

In 1984, the country hosted the championship for the first time but failed to win it. It had to wait until 1992 and 2015 to win it two times in the country’s history.

Group A of the championship comprises hosts Cote D’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria. As with every contest between Cote D’Ivoire and Nigeria, their second group match in Abidjan will be ‘bloody’, very critical for both sides to win and guarantee a safe passage to the second round! It is one of the most anticipated matches in the group.

Also Read: The ‘Return’ Of Tony Igwe – ‘World 2’ !  –Odegbami

Generally, the AFCON 2023 championship presents a situation where clear favourites as not so clear. Only the North African teams, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia, appear to be strong with their domestic leagues organized so well that they produce local players with the essential ingredient (togetherness) that ‘Giant’ teams require to play well and consistently during a championship of this nature.

None of the 11 West African teams, including current champions, Senegal, look solid enough to earn the position of ‘clear favourite’. Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire appear to be past their prime.

That’s why I can ‘recklessly’ predict that Nigeria has a great chance to win the championship despite their poor showings in the past few years, losing or failing to win easy matches that, on paper, would have been walkovers some years ago.

super-eagles-vs-sao-tome-and-principe-2023-afcon-qualifier-godswill-akpabio-international-stadium-uyo

It will be interesting to see how the Super Eagles will perform, with their large array of gifted players assembled around various leagues around Europe, coming together for only a period of two weeks (a rare commodity before now) to build a proper team. They can be the surprise team of AFCON 2023 if they rise from the ashes of the past, dust off recent memories, and learn to play confidently and win again.

Some of us believe, without any justification, that the Eagles shall lift the trophy on February 11. This wishful thinking can hardly be substantiated with facts and figures. Only a gut feeling tells me that the Super Eagles will come together finally to lead Africa once again.

I shall be attending the championship. I am preparing to do so as a tourist, a historian, a documenter of history, and a reporter.

I am organizing a road trip, with stops in Badagry in Nigeria, through Cotonou, Lome, Accra, Sekondi Takoradi and Abidjan. The trip is a ‘soul train’ along the West Coast of Africa, hugging the Atlantic coastline along the Slave Trade routes and Sites from where our African ancestors were shipped as Slaves across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas.

Also Read: Good Tidings From FIFA For Nigerian Football!  –Odegbami

I shall be meeting with several of my former football international colleagues along the way, and holding social and cultural engagements at each stop to celebrate friendship in West Africa.

I shall be writing my weekly columns, in the newspapers.

I shall also script and publish a daily diary of my experiences and activities on terrestrial radio and social media platforms for the duration of the championship as I move around and cover matches, particularly those ones involving the Super Eagles of Nigeria.

Once again, I am convinced the Eagles shall soar high and win the AFCON 2023 championship. That’s my wager.

Finally, I pray that 2024 will be a great year for humans around the world. May the Creator of the Universe bless us all!

 


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