Thursday, January 10, 2008

Following Premiership Players in the African Cup of Nations

I have to tell you all how unbelievably disappointed I am that this year's 26th edition of the African Cup of Nations, set to kick off in Ghana on January 20, isn't being televised on any major station here in the US (at least as far as I know, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong). This tournament has a history of exciting games and has developed a reputation of producing players that are amongst the best in the world now but really got their kickstart by playing at Africa's championship.

The quality of players coming out of Africa is growing by leaps and bounds. Most of the major clubs across Europe have at least a couple of Africans on their roster, even some, like Arsenal's Emmanuel Adebayor, that won't be playing in this tournament because their respective nations didn't qualify for the 16-team event. The host nation, Ghana, has players on its squad who ply their trade at the domestic level at Chelsea, Portsmouth, West Ham, Roma, Bayer Leverkusen, Fenerbahçe, Udinese, and Celta Vigo. My personal favorite to win the whole thng, Ivory Coast, boasts players from Stuttgart, Arsenal, Chelsea, Barcelona, Lyon, Sevilla, Werder Bremen, and others.

Many of the Premiership's managers and others from other major European leagues, notably Arsene Wenger, are upset with the timing of this tournament. Players who are called up by their country will miss roughly a month of action with their clubs and managers don't like to have to adjust. What they seem to not realize, however, is that Africa's geographical position in the Southern Hemisphere puts this tournament in the summer for them, which is the same time that the World Cup and the European Championship are played.

The whole "country or club" debate is always called into question at times like this, but how you can realistically expect a player to reject a place on his country's team? A chance to put on the colors of your nation is something that truly appeals to players. To represent your country and wear the colors with pride is something that's so honest and special; it's not about the money like it is with club soccer, it's about the spirit of the game and love for the place you came from. I would pick country over club any day of the week if I was lucky enough to ever get the chance to be in that position.

Numerous Premiership players will compete in this tournament to one degree or another and I wanted to make it easier for fans out there to know who's going and what nations they'll want to support if they have players from their favorite club. The players mentioned below have either been named to their nation's provisional squad or the actual tournament squad itself. Again, feel free to correct me if I went wrong somewhere.

Nations with Premiership players (club team):

Richard Kingson (Birmingham)
John Paintsil (West Ham)
Sulley Muntari (Portsmouth)
Michael Essien (Chelsea)





Ivory Coast:
Emmanuel Eboué (Arsenal)
Abdoulaye Méïté (Bolton)
Kolo Touré (Arsenal)
Emerse Faé (Reading)
Didier Zokora (Tottenham)
Didier Drogba (Chelsea)
Salomon Kalou (Chelsea)

Mohamed Sissoko (Liverpool)

Joseph Yobo (Everton)
Dickson Etuhu (Sunderland)
John Obi Mikel (Chelsea)
John Utaka (Portsmouth)
Yakubu (Everton)
Obafemi Martins (Newcastle)
Nwankwo Kanu (Portsmouth)

André Bikey (Reading)
Geremi (Newcastle)
Alexandre Song (Arsenal)

Mohamed Shawky (Middlesbrough)



Manucho Goncalves (Manchester United)

Habib Bèye (Newcastle)
Ibrahima Sonko (Reading)
Papa Bouba Diop (Portsmouth)
Diomansy Kamara (Fulham)
El Hadji Diouf (Bolton)
Henri Camara (West Ham)

South Africa:
Steven Pienaar (Everton)
Aaron Mokoena (Blackburn)

Radhi Jaïdi (Birmingham)
Medhi Nafti (Birmingham)

Editor's Note: At the time of publishing Mohamed Sissoko still technically played for Liverpool, although all signs point to him joining Juventus within the coming days.

1 comment:

laurie said...

It's not on TV, but the games will be available online in the US and Canada. That's better than nothing.