kudos to the pharaohs

The Egyptian national football team beat their Ghanaian opponents 1-0 to win a record seventh title at the African Cup of Nations tournament in Angola. The Egyptians however did not qualify for the World Cup that will be held in June in South Africa, having lost to rivals Algeria in the qualifiers. Egypt beat Algeria in the semis of this tournament. I must confess that due to the time difference and a rather busy schedule I did not watch a single game of this tournament. That said, I was disappointed by the performance of the teams that qualified for the world cup. Nearly all of them struggled in the groups stages. They will definitely have to polish up if they expect to get somewhere in the World Cup tournament later in the year in South Africa.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all of you out there.

Let’s start off the year by looking at the one thing that the Continent needs really badly: economic growth. Uganda’s New Vision reports that African business people have positive expectations for the new year. Responding to a survey by Africa Practice most of them believed that intra-continental trade as well as FDI would increase in the coming year. Perhaps most crucially, a plurality of those polled believed that infrastructure development – ICT and what not – would be more influential to business development than politics. For a very long time Africa’s governance challenges have retarded economic development. May be economic development might be the key that will incentivise good governance. Angola, Namibia and Kenya, to some extent, are the countries that may prove this prediction right in 2010.

2010 will also be a footballing year for the Continent. From January 10 – 31 Angola will host the 27th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN). May the best team win, and I hope none of the Continental heavyweights will pick up injuries because come June South Africa is hosting the FIFA World Cup. The Continent has good teams in the World Cup and this might just be the year that an African team wins the coveted FIFA World Cup Trophy.

And in other news, South African president – Jacob Zuma – just got married for the fifth time and is engaged to at least one other woman. I still stand by my previous comments on this matter.

the world cup draws

South Africa (Group A) get Mexico, Uruguay and France

Cote d’Ivoire (Group G) get Portugal, North Korea and Brazil

Ghana (Group D) get Germany, Australia and Serbia

Cameroon (Group E) get Netherlands, Denmark and Japan

Nigeria (Group B) get Argentina, Greece and South Korea

Algeria (Group C) get England, the US and Slovenia

All the groups look good for the African teams (may be not so much in Group G which is quickly seeming like it is going to be the “group of death”). My money is on Cameroon, Ghana and Ivory Coast. They have the talent and will sure get enough support from the “home crowd” in South Africa to propel them even further. Outside the Continent, Italy and Spain will be the teams to watch since they have the easiest groups – plus of course the usual Latin American suspects: Argentina and Brazil.

Let the sounds of the vuvuzela begin!

football hooligans and diplomacy

Both Egyptian and Algerian officials could have been classier in handling the mess that has resulted from their rivalry on the field. The two national football teams were competing for the last African slot in next year’s world cup in South Africa. Egypt won the second leg in Cairo, resulting in a deadlock in the group, which then necessitated a playoff in a neutral country. Sudan was chosen and Algeria won.

The fans of either team did not find it in their interest to keep things this simple though. From Khartoum to Cairo to Algiers to Marseilles they expressed their anger by rioting and setting business and boats on fire. FIFA is considering disciplinary action on Egypt because Egyptian fans pelted the Algerian football team’s bus with stones. In Algiers Egyptian businesses were raided by angry mobs. The running battles extended to France, where Algerian and Egyptian immigrants clashed in Marseilles. Egypt has recalled its ambassador to Algeria.

There is pride in making it to the world cup, but there is also sanity and diplomatic decency. This should not have gone this far.