The Sweeper: Despite Tragedy, Africa Cup of Nations Kicks Off

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As Tom wrote earlier today, it is unclear whether the Africa Cup of Nations should continue in light of three deaths and emerging evidence of cynical political maneuvering in the Angolan government’s decision to host games in Cabinda; it appears it for the time being it will, as Angola kicked off this evening against Mali.

That said there are a few good tournament previews.  The Independent gives a detailed and sober-minded appraisal of the ACN hosts, indicating that “Even before yesterday’s attack there were doubts about whether Angola would take the opportunity hosting offered. It is easy to be glib about such events and imagine great economic benefits, but Angola is not a particularly poor country, despite problems with poverty.”

When Saturday Comes also provides a straightforward preview, with the caveat that “For the first time, a major international tournament begins without anyone knowing for sure how many teams will be taking part.”  The piece ends with the self-negating but likely accurate statement: “Whatever happens at CAN 2010, the tournament is already destined to be remembered for the tragic events that took place before any games were played.”

In several major English dailies however, there is little in the way of any real coverage of the event as an actual football tournament.  Perhaps Friday’s tragic events led to reduced ACN coverage, but it’s unclear how much space these papers would have devoted to the games had the attack not occurred.  While many English football pundits had not heard of Cabinda before Friday, nor one suspects had any plans to write a jot on the Angola-based tournament (except maybe to bemoan injuries to Premier League starters), it seems they are clamouring to be first out the gate with an opinion on whether participating nations should stay or withdraw.

While this sort of “instant expert” syndrome isn’t new, and it is certainly within anyone’s right to express an opinion on Friday’s events, it’s hard to take these writers’ concerns about African football’s “legacy” in light of Friday’s horrific attack seriously when so little attention was given to that legacy as it developed on the football pitch.

Worldwide Stories

  • EPL Talk‘s Christopher Harris uses the example of the CAN to highlight how frustrating it can be to sort out global viewing restrictions: “While I don’t condone online piracy of soccer broadcasts, I completely understand where the soccer fan is coming from. It’s much easier to go to than to spend a few hours searching through Google trying to find who has the game. While that may sound like an easy cop-out for soccer fans, I disagree. Rights restrictions are confusing. Yes, soccer fans should know better where to find legal streams of the Premier League, but even finding online stream of the Champions League is confusing since it has changed so much in the past six months.”
  • Meanwhile Arsene Wenger has questioned the motives of those calling for players to return “home” to Europe: “What is behind things like that? Is it a selfish motivation or is it a real issue over security?” Wenger told reporters today.
  • Landon Donovan debuted for Everton against Arsenal yesterday in one of the few Premier League games not canceled due to weather.  Twohundredpercent gives a good summary of the match.
  • Fake Sigi picks at Jimmy Conrad’s vision of MLS’ future.

Richard Whittall writes A More Splendid Life.

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