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Africa Cup of Nations 2013: The players


With the Africa Cup of Nations 2013 almost here I thought I’d take a look at the players who make up the sixteen squads taking part in the competition. Some of the graphics are interactive, so feel free to have a click around.

[iframe width=”680″ height=”2438″ src=”http://infogr.am/afcon2013-3294397″%5D

The above graphic was made with infogr.am and the data came from the ever reliable wikipedia.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2013 in Africa, International

 

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BOBBY CHARLTON VERSUS THE ZAMBIANS

BOBBY CHARLTON VERSUS THE ZAMBIANS

In October 1978 the Zambian national side undertook a tour of England. They played five matches in a fifteen day period against Shrewsbury Town (9/10/78), Wigan Athletic (11/10/78), Workington (16/10/1978), Marine (17/10/78) and Bristol Rovers (24/10/78). It’s likely that the tour was arranged by Englishman, and then Zambian manager, Brian Tiler (a former Wigan Athletic player). The match at Gay Meadow against Shrewsbury Town is probably the most interesting of the lot as it featured a rather well known figure by the name of Bobby Charlton, playing in the last game of his career. Why he found himself playing at Shrewsbury is a question that may never fully be answered, though it has been suggested that Charlton had a link to the town as he and Duncan Edwards undertook their national service there.

 

Bobby Charlton had retired from football two years previously after a short spell in Ireland with Waterford United. However, he was convinced to play in this one off tie and to don the famous blue and amber stripes of the Shrews. The programme details some of Charlton’s team-mates that day and they include players who went on to forge successful managerial careers in the lower leagues such as Graham Turner and Ian Atkins. In fact, Turner is now managing Shrewsbury Town in League Two, very apt considering he answered Shrewsbury Town reserves to the “what’s your favourite other side” in the programme.

Shrewsbury Town take on Zambia at Gay Meadow

Shrewsbury Town take on Zambia at Gay Meadow

The player profiles of the Shrewsbury players are fascinating and give a real insight into late 1970s football in the UK. Not only are the players’ positions and main attributes listed, we are also informed of the marital status of the player and the car they drive. So we have: Steve Biggins (single, Ford Escort), Carleton Leonard (single, Hillman Avenger), Graham Turner (married with three children, Vauxhall Chevette), Michael Roberts (single, Volkswagen “Beetle”) and so it continues…

The player profiles in the programme of the Zambians also make interesting reading (though they do unfortunately omit their marital status and the car they drive). Goalkeeper Vincent Chileshe “rated the best Goalkeeper in Africa” and nicknamed the “Black Cat” is featured as is Godfrey Chitalu, a centre-forward from Kabwe Warriors. It says in the programme that Chitalu had turned down offers to play in England and the United States to stay in his native Zambia. It certainly wasn’t uncommon for Africans to be playing abroad at this time, Aston Villa featured two Zambian internationals in the 69/70 season (Fred Mwila and Emment Kapengwe) so there may be something in that tale.

As for the game, Zambia lost 4-0. The tour was to be a difficult one for the Chipolopolo, the next few games didn’t get much easier as they lost to Wigan Athletic by two goals to one and also lost to Marine by four goals to nil.

Zambia’s manager went on to become the managing director of AFC Bournemouth where he helped oversee the club’s promotion to the Second Division. Tiler was tragically killed in Italy when the car he and (then Bournemouth manager) Harry Redknapp were travelling in collided with a minibus on the way to the England versus Cameroon World Cup Quarter Final in 1990.

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2012 in Africa, Featured

 

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Zambia – Champions of Africa


Eighteen years after eighteen of Zambia’s footballers were killed off the coast of Libreville, Stippola Sunzu scored the eighteenth penalty of a marathon shootout to win his country their first ever Africa Cup of Nations.

During the shootout the Zambian players could be heard indulging in communal singing in support of their team-mates as they faced the dreaded walk to the penalty spot. It was this team-ethic that had seen Zambia storm towards the final. This sense of teamwork and fighting for one another stretched from the pitch all the way to the touchline as the wonderful Hervé Renard became a virtual 12th man during their battles to the final.

Renard has come a long way since his unsuccessful stint as manager of Cambridge United (it’s interesting to note at the time the Cambridge board wanted to replace him with Dion Dublin, a man who has become more famous for inventing his own musical instrument than his managerial abilities since), and has come even further since he ran his own business cleaning offices in Paris. His screams of “MAYUNKAAA!”, directed at eventual winner of the Golden Boot, via virtue of assists, Emmanual Mayunka became a running amusement amongst fans on twitter during the tournament.

His methods may have often seemed unconventional, during the final he could be heard shouting for his supposedly less illustrious team to “keep the ball on the floor”, whilst he also only used two of his three permitted substitutes despite an enregy sapping period of extra time. However, no one can dispute his decision making skills after this magnificent victory.

Incredibly in the minutes after the cup was awarded Renard managed to enhance his reputation further. Firstly by carrying injured fullback Joseph Musonda down the touchline to allow him to join in the celebrations with his ecstatic team-mates, Renard’s white shirt gleaming under the Stade d’Angondjé floodlights. Secondly, by giving his medal to Kalusha Bwalya, the head of the Zambian FA. Bwalya is considered Zambia’s greatest ever player and was a part of the ’93 squad that were tragically killed in the plane crash, but was luckily not on the plane as he was heading back to his club in Europe. If you’re after symbolism and stories, there are few games of football that will ever match this one.

The game was littered with moments of sportsmanship, from Didier Drogba consoling the tearful Musonda after he had to be substituted early on (Drogba remains a legend and a much loved figure in Africa despite his image in the UK) to Ivory Coast’s goalkeeper Boubacar Barry shaking the hand of fellow keeper Mwenee after conceding a penalty during the shootout. The final was a much needed tonic for football’s soul after a sour weekend of Suarez/Evra hand-shake shenanigans.

For all the talk of Ivory Coast’s golden generation of Didier Drogba, the Touré brothers, Solomon Kalou and Gervinho it was the ‘Copper generation’ of Zambia that truly deserved their victory. They had seen off African heavy-weights Senegal, Ghana and Ivory Coast to win the cup whilst the highest ranked side the Ivorians had met during the competition were Burkina Faso (ranked 14th in Africa).

Furthermore the Zambians contained a side with only three or four players who play outside of Africa, and only two who play in Europe (one in Switzerland and the other in Russia). For many this may be a surprise, but a quick glance through the history books shows that each winning squad from the last five Africa Cup of Nations (Egypt 3, Tunisia 1, Zambia 1) has been based primarily in Africa. You have to go back to Cameroon’s victory of 2002 to find a squad that was based mainly in Europe.

It will be interesting to see whether sides packed with European stars like Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast change their method because as the wise man once said:

All that glitters is not gold, sometimes, just sometimes, it’s copper.

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2012 in Africa, International

 

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Sudan’s domestic players show Africa the benefit of team-work


After what we’ve seen at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations it’s perhaps a little foolish to talk in terms of more shocks. Why should we continue to be shocked when our predictions are continually thrown back in our faces time after time?

Sudan became the latest side to upset the African apple cart when they qualified for the quarter finals last night. It was the first Africa cup of nations game that Sudan had won since the 1970 final (Jonathan Wilson covers this excellently in his article this morning), and it’s the first time since Uganda in 1978 that an east African nation is represented in the last eight.

Much has been made in pre-tournament reviews about the fact that every single member of the Sudanese squad is based within the country. This point was often made derogatorily towards the side in the build up to the tournament, but perhaps now that Sudan are through to the quarter finals we can view their domestic status with a little more positivity.

The Angolans (the side who the Falcons of Jediane pipped to second place) must be sick of the sight of Sudanese striker Mudathir El-Tahir. Not only did Mudathir score a brace against Burkina Faso in the final group game to qualify Sudan as runners-up over the Angolans, he also scored a brace for his club side Al-Hilal against Angola’s Recretavio Caála in the African Champions League (Al-Hilal won the tie 3-1 on aggregate).

Interestingly the other Angolan side in the Champions Legue last season, Inter Luanda, only just scraped Sudanese giants Al-Merreikh on penalties. With these results between the two nation’s clubs sides in mind it’s perhaps not entirely surprising that Sudan have managed to knock Angola out of the African Cup of Nations. After all, the Sudanese league is ranked fifth best in Africa (only behind Tunisia, Egypt, Nigeria and DR Congo) whilst the Angloan league is ranked joint 12th and the Angolan squad does contain a healthy dose of their own domestic talent in their squad. It’s undeniable that the experience gained from African players in top European leagues is invaluable to the development of a country’s football talent, however the power of team-work can never be underestimated.

In comparison to most other countries Sudan have had unparalleled opportunities to blend a team. In addition to competitions such as the CHAN mentioned in the Guardian article, Sudan came a very creditable 3rd in the most recent CECAFA Cup (a competition for East African nations), whilst the bulk of the Sudanese side come from only two clubs (the previously mentioned Al-Hilal and Al-Merreikh). In the match against Burkina Faso seven of the Sudan starting eleven were supplied from Al-Hilal, three from Al-Merreikh and a solitary member from Al-Ittihad. In comparison to this the Burkinabe squad contained players who played in fourteen different nations, the Angolans picked a set of players from eight different leagues.

Sudan now move onto the quarter finals where they face Zambia. The Chipolopolo are another side that draw many of their players from Africa (only Chisamba Lungu (Ural SverDlovsk, Russia) and Emmanuel Mayunka (Young Boys) play in European leagues). There could be an interesting sub-plot in this quarter final tie as Zambian winger Jonas Sakuwaha, like nine of the Sudanese squad, plays his football in Omdurman for Al-Merreikh. Sakuwaha has not yet played in this year’s Africa Cup of Nations but his tactical insight into many of his club team-mates could prove invaludable. It’s inevitable that Zambian coach Herve Renard will have a chat with him about Sudan as Renard chose to attend Angola vs Cote D’Ivorie.

Even Renard expected an Angolan victory.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Africa

 

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Africa Cup of Nations 2012 Group A: Senegal 1 Zambia 2


Read any preview of the Africa Cup of Nations and you’ll read expert after expert talk of Senegal’s striking talent. Football being football Saturday’s tie between the Terranga Lions and Chipolopolos didn’t really turn out that way. The undoubted talents of Moussa Sow, Demba Ba, Pappis Cisse and Mamadou Niang failed to fire and it was the trio of Christopher Katongo, Rainford Kalaba and Emmanual Mayuka who impressed.

Senegal lined up in their all white strip against Zambia in their green and orange number. If any football match ever symbolised the Tic Tacs battle between “minty fresh” and “fruity” then this was it. It was the Young Boys youngster Emmanuel Mayuka who impressed the most, finding space behind the Senegalese back-line on numerous occasions as the Terranga Lions back four. In the 12th minute the 21 year old Mayunka  headed the Copper Bullets into a fully deserved lead, his celebration matching his exuberant style as he somersaulted towards the touchline giving African Cup of Nations montage editors footage for their end of tournament  pieces.

Only eight minutes later the Chipolopolos had doubled their lead, Rainford Kalaba slotting past the rushing Senegalese keeper with some confidence. The Zambian player who plays his football in the Democratic Republic of Congo for recent African Champions League winners TP Mazembe celebrated with his substitutes who sported some of the finest tracksuit tops ever seen at an international tournament (seriously, if you get a chance take a look at Zambian subs in their forthcoming African Cup matches).

Senegal’s well taken consolation goal from one of the Terranga Lions’ less talked about front-men Dame N’Doye did lead to a resurgence in their fortunes, however their only other real chance was a header from Ba that struck the bar (or did it strike the Ba?). Despite their obvious difficulties in defence and their profligacy in possession the Terranga Lions did show enough to suggest they’ll have enough quality to see off Libya and Equatorial Guinea in their final two games, but their opening day loss gives them very little lee-way in their quest to reach the second stages.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Africa

 

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