I had mostly ignored the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) until the tournament got down to the semi-finals, but, probably because of the fact that, in Turkey, the AFCON is being broadcast on subscription-based pay television. This practice has made Turkish people isolated from global football.
Nevertheless, after watching the semis, it did not make me regret skipping the group stages, because the football put on display by the best four was a far cry from European football. Fundamental deficiencies, tactical superficiality and harsh play, all signaled that neither the team not the coaches had done any serious homework ahead of the tournament.
Personally, I think the biggest problem for African football today, is that the continent has become one of the last stations for expired coaches. Just check the top four teams in the tournament and you see where the truth lies.
Hector Cuper (Egypt), Avram Grant (Ghana), and Hugo Broos (Cameroon), are all familiar names to those who have been following European football over the decades. All of them were once at the height of their careers and managed some top-class teams in Europe, but by the mid-2000, their names were already forgotten. They gradually dropped from the top-tier teams to leagues in the United Arab Emirates, Algeria and Taiwan, before moving on to their probably final destination, Africa.
Meanwhile, Burkina Faso coach Paulo Duarte could not become a prominent coach in Europe and made headlines for the wrong reasons when he tried to manage Burkina Faso and Le Mans at the same time back in 2009.
It seems that the European attitude toward Africa in football is still in the industrial era, where only material goods are alluring.
Now, of course there might be some exceptions, but given the play I witnessed in the semi-finals, it is obvious that these people were making up for their minimal achievement in Europe with success in Africa, while giving nothing creative or productive in return. Only by banishing these people from African teams and then letting those who really care take over, can save African football.
I do not mean that African countries should nationalize these positions or seek some kind of African nationalism, but they should be aware of the fact that expired European coaches are doing more harm than good.
If you go a step or two backwards in the careers of these coaches, you would see that Turkey was also one of the final destinations for them. Unfortunately, the story in Turkey confirms that when poorly established institutions and greedy executives come together, these coaches become a viable option to save the day and to hide the wastage of resources.
In order to rescue its football from self-destruction, Africa must establish institutions that are well-regulated and ruled in order to catch up with Europe or maybe surpass it. And the starting point would be by letting promising, young people take up the right positions. Give them a chance.