CHAN: Political Quarrels and Talent Spotting – CHAN Overview

CHAN: Political Quarrels and Talent Spotting – CHAN Overview

  • Author, Maher Mezahi
  • Role, Sports columnist (footblall)
  • Reporting from Algeria

Photo credit, Getty Images

image caption,

Morocco won the African Nations Championship in 2018 and 2020.

The African Nations Championship (CHAN), which takes place every two years and is one of the most unique international competitions in the world, begins in Algeria on January 13.

Not to be confused with the Confederation of African Football (Caf)’s other flagship pan-African tournament, the Africa Cup of Nations, countries participating in CHAN can only select players playing in their own national leagues.

This means, for example, that Algeria cannot request the services of Riyad Mahrez and that Senegal cannot call on Sadio Mané.

We’ll come back to that soon. But first, the political dispute that was the elephant in the room during the build-up to the tournament: why did Morocco pull out?

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The defending champions won’t fly away

Morocco are the two-time defending champions, but the North Africans will not score a hat-trick after the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) decided to withdraw, just a day before the opening ceremony.

To make sense of this last-minute decision, one must understand the political context.

Relations between Morocco and Algeria have been strained for several decades – largely due to the twists and turns of several territorial disputes – but in August 2021, when Algeria severed diplomatic ties entirely, it also closed its airspace. to Moroccan planes.

Last month, on December 27, Fouzi Lekjaa, president of the FRMF and delegate of the budget minister, announced that if the team could not land directly in the host city, Constantine, where they would play their matches, aboard a Royal Air Maroc flight, the Atlas Lions would withdraw.

A stalemate ensued, with neither nation willing to back down. The Caf also remains silent on the matter, despite several requests from the BBC to clarify the situation.

It was the FRMF that finally broke the cover on January 12, issuing a statement that read: “The Moroccan national team is unable to travel to Constantine (Algeria) to play the 7th edition of the French Championship. ‘Africa of Nations and defend its title insofar as the final authorization of the Royal Air Maroc (RAM) flight, official carrier of the Moroccan football team, from Rabat to Constantine has not been confirmed.

The ramifications of this withdrawal have not yet been announced but Caf regulations seem to suggest that Morocco could be banned from the next CHAN.

The BBC has contacted the Caf for comment but has not yet received a response.

Uganda and Libya have also threatened to withdraw from CHAN for legal and financial reasons but, with days to go, their respective issues have been resolved and the rest of the teams are expected to compete.

In the wake of such turmoil, Algeria is likely to be the favorite of bookmakers.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Cameroon and Libya are also credible pre-tournament candidates.

A scout fantasy

We have already established that Riyad Mahrez and Sadio Mané will not entertain the crowds in Algeria.

So if none of these big names are here to add a little sparkle, why bother?

For those wishing to get a glimpse of the African stars of tomorrow, CHAN remains a must-see TV event.

Take for example the success of the Moroccan national team at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Nayef Aguerd, Achraf Dari and Jawad El Yamiq all made valuable contributions to the Atlas Lions’ historic run to the semi-finals.

Photo credit, Getty Images

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Jawad El Yamiq played for Morocco in two CHAN tournaments, including the 2018 edition in Morocco when the Atlas Lions beat Nigeria in the final.

Each of these players was integral to Morocco’s back-to-back CHAN triumph in 2018 and 2020, earning them transfers to European clubs, West Ham United, Stade Brestois and Real Valladolid respectively.

Cameroon’s run in Qatar has been a little less impressive, but two of its most successful players, Samuel Oum Gouet and Moumi Ngamaleu, are also CHAN alumni, having played in the 2016 tournament in Rwanda.

A 19-year-old, Yves Bissouma, also competed in Rwanda and made a very noticeable contribution in the semi-finals.

When he scored a spectacular last-minute goal against his native Ivory Coast, he immediately became a household name in Mali, even though the midfielder and his teammates lost in the final against DR congo.

French giants Lille had already been eyeing Bissouma for a number of years, but his performances at CHAN heightened their interest and soon prompted Les Dogues to sign the prodigious child prodigy.

As well as Bissouma, who has now been in the English Premier League for over four years and currently resides at Tottenham Hotspur, other notable players have made an impact at European clubs including Patson Daka of Leicester City, Sekou Koita of RB Salzburg and Al Motasim Al-Musrati from Braga.

CHAN is also an integral part of the intra-continental transfer market.

For example, Malian Aliou Dieng and Tunisian Ali Maaloul each have several CHAN appearances on their CV and they now play for Al Ahly in Egypt, arguably the biggest club in Africa.

Who are the stars of this year?

There will be no shortage of talent at CHAN 2022.

For the host country, Algeria, Ahmed Kendouci, deserves to be watched.

The 23-year-old midfielder is Algeria’s top scorer with eight goals and is known to be an opportunistic threat.

Ghanaian striker Daniel Afriyie is another prolific goalscorer looking to make a name for himself.

Ghanaian striker Daniel Afriyie, 21, has already signed a pre-contract with Swiss club FC Zurich, but he will still be allowed to participate in the tournament because technically he is currently registered with Ghanaian club Hearts of Oak.

Photo credit, Getty Images

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Daniel Afriyie was part of the Ghanaian selection for the World Cup in Qatar and will soon be leaving to play his football in Switzerland.

Afriyie has scored in each of Ghana’s four CHAN qualifiers and even traveled to Qatar where he was not used as a substitute during the Black Stars’ World Cup campaign.

Senegalese Lamine Camara and Angolan Zini are two less established players who could well become key players for their national teams in the near future.

Camara is a very active midfielder, coming from the famous Generation Foot academy, which produced Sadio Mané (Bayern Munich), Ismaila Sarr (Watford) and Pape Matar Sarr (Tottenham).

Zini is more of a leggy striker who has already scored three goals in seven appearances for Angola in senior competition and played a handful of appearances in Europe on loan at AEK Athens.

The format

You may be wondering why CHAN 2022 is being played in January 2023.

Unsurprisingly, this is because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused a delay in the international football calendar, with CHAN having been pushed back six months as a result.

This is the seventh edition, but it is the first time that Algeria has hosted it. To mark the occasion, the country is inaugurating a brand new football-specific stadium.

The Nelson Mandela Stadium in Algiers, with a capacity of 40,784, will host several important matches during the competition, including the opening match and the final on February 4.

Photo credit, Getty Images

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The new Nelson Mandela stadium in Algiers will host the opening match and the final of CHAN 2022.

The other three sites are the Miloud Hadefi stadium in Oran, the Mohamed Hamlaoui stadium in Constantine and the May 19, 1956 stadium in Annaba.

CHAN 2022 was supposed to host 18 nations for the first time, instead of 16, after the Caf executive committee voted to expand the tournament last May.

However, Morocco’s withdrawal reduced that number to 17, which upset the planned qualifying format for the knockout stage.

The participating nations were divided into two groups of four and three groups of three.

Groups A and B will see the top two teams qualify, but what will happen to Groups C, D and E remains to be seen.

Caf’s original plan was for only the first team from a group of three to qualify, but that now means only seven teams will reach the quarter-finals.

How the organizers will overcome this numerical imbalance has not yet been announced.

One more reason to keep an eye on this unique international tournament.

Hens

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Pool B (Annaba):

Senegal
Pool C (Constantine):

Morocco (withdraws)
Pool D (Oran):

Mauritania
Pool E (Oran):