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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Zambia triumph and Afcon new era

19th February 2012

Last Sunday, Zambia showed nerves of steel to defeat Ivory Coast through a penalty-shootout and win their first-ever African Nations Cup title.

Undoubtedly, the fact that the star-studded Elephants (Ivory Coast) were made to eat a piece of humble pie by veritable underdogs in Zambia just illustrates that this showpiece football event has been a nightmare to predict.

From the unforgettable, fairy-tale run of co-hosts Gabon and Equatorial Guinea to the quarterfinals, and the unceremonious elimination of Senegal at the group stage, this has been a tournament in which the hard-earned reputations of giants have counted for naught.

However, although these results took everybody by surprise, perhaps we should have been braced for them, judging from the results of the qualifiers.

Indeed, the likes of perennial title contenders such as: Nigeria, Cameroon and Egypt, were left to suffer the ignominy of missing out on this year’s Nations Cup at the end of the qualifiers.

Really, this should have made everyone then sit up and take notice of this emerging, and exciting new trend in African football.

The consequences of this power shift in the African game are that the days when so-called titans could make opponents quake in their boots have been firmly relegated to the past. Sadly though, one disturbing highlight to emerge from this year’s gripping Nations Cup was the astonishingly small number of spectators who turned out for many of the matches.

Granted, although no crystal clear reason has yet been offered for this lack of interest, one could tentatively make the case that the hitherto cast-iron brand of the tournament is losing its appeal amongst football-mad African fans.

If this were the case, the enhanced access of African fans to the money-spinning European leagues such as the English Premier League for example, could help to explain the noticeable lack of interest in the championship.

African fans then need to remember that it is absolutely crucial we support our own football events, so that new heroes can rise from obscurity to stardom.

Besides, one simple question should not escape us: if we don’t support African football, who will?

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