Swila: AFCON an opportunity for the Stars and the continent to shine
- For mother Africa, this tourney presents an opportunity to show how far Africa has come as continent and the strides the competition has made.
Beginning Friday, the world’s attention will shift to Cairo, Egypt where the 32nd edition of the African Cup of Nations is penciled to kick off.
This is the biggest sporting event in Africa and rightfully so the entire continent will follow the developments with bated breath.
Playing the tourney in the months in June and July was a masterstroke as it gives the competition an opportunity to hog the limelight as action has already ended in the European Leagues.
This competition should thus be a moment for Africa to shine and get a fair share of coverage in the world press.
The competition also presents a chance for our footballers to showcase their talents and pedigree, not just to an adoring home fans but to would-be-suitors.
For mother Africa, this tourney presents the platform to show how far Africa has come as a continent and the strides the competition has made.
Ever since the first edition was held in 1957 involving three teams – Ethiopia, hosts Sudan and eventual winners Egypt– the tourney has grown in leaps and bounds and this should be manifested in the preparedness, quality of infrastructure and facilities, and of course the quality of football that will be served.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has already done all within its power to ensure that it’s all systems go while the hosts Egypt has rolled out a red carpet – preparing six quality stadia – the Cairo International Stadium (74,100), 30 June Stadium (30,000), Al Salaam Stadium (30,000), Alexandria Stadium (20,000), Suez Stadium (27,000) and Ismailia Stadium (18,525) which are all ready to host the competition across four cities.
It promises to be riveting action and will capture the imagination of the continent, from north in Cairo to south in Cape Town. From Lagos in the west to Nairobi in the east, Afcon will be the talk.
Apart from that, Africa’s illustrious sons like Sadio Mane of Senegal, Mo Salah of host Egypt, who are all fresh from conquering Europe by winning the coveted Uefa Champions League will be parading their skills, ready to entertain their beloved Africa and so will be the tricky winger Riyad Mharez who will be lining up for Algeria.
So, in all these, what is at stake for Kenya and our very own Harambee Stars?
You see, after 15 years of painful wait, our boys under Frenchman Sebastien Migne will be making a return to this riveting extravaganza.
That time, 15 years ago, our hopes were pegged on the young shoulders of a 19-year-old Dennis Oliech who by cruel twist of fate will miss this showpiece with an injury. What a shame!
This time though the hopes of a nation are on the shoulders of a lanky Kashiwa Reyshol striker, the 25-year-old Michael Olunga who plies his trade in Japan, and the indefatigable Victor Wanyama, our best export to Europe in the last five years.
The Stars will be battling it out in Group C alongside Mane’s Senegal, Riyad’s Algeria and our neighbours Taifa Stars of Tanzania.
The pessimists’ fear that our chances are slim but at Citizen Digital we believe that confidence must be the driving factor. Our boys are capable like everyone else.
This is the message coach Migne must drill in his charges as they prepare for this epic battle.
Winger Ayub Timbe, speaking ahead of the tourney, believes the preparations have been top notch and it should work in their favour.
Timbe who has struggled with injuries in the past but when fit is arguably one of the best in the Stars set up will be key player for the team in the tourney.
With a whooping Sh450million prize money on offer for winners, the Stars must have believe and fight to get a share of the pie by advancing as far as they can. Reaching the semis will guarantee them some Sh200milion.
As the days turn to hours and eventually to minutes ahead of the big kick off, Kenyan fans have expressed their feelings and it is our hope that they’ll rally behind the team.
At Citizen Digital we state our stand thus: This is not the moment to mock the players based on their age. This is not the moment to poke holes on coach Migne’s selection. He remains the head coach and as such his decisions must be respected. Let everyone, you the fan, the critic, the CEO, the common mwananchi tone down on the negativity and get behind the team.
Let the game begin! Let’s go Stars!
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