There was some confusion amongst fans when it was announced that the Africa Cup of Nations would be held in both 2012 and 2013. Since 1968 the ACoN took biennial tournament status, so the move to host the event in consecutive years was a bold decision. The reasoning behind the move was to ensure that the tournament now takes place on odd-numbered years, rather than on even-numbered years. This means that the tournament will no longer take place on the same calendar year as the finals of the FIFA World Cup or European Championships.
Player fatigue is always a worry for club and country when major international tournaments come about, but the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations itself suffered from a form of tournament fatigue. This was inevitable, with hindsight, and surely a sign that for one step to be taken forward, one was required to be taken back. The move to odd-numbered years will surely be beneficial for future tournaments, but the effect on the 2013 ACoN appeared unavoidable; without leaving a three year gap between tournaments, that is.
Civil War and Infrastructure
While it made sense for the 2013 ACoN to be held in South Africa due to the infrastructure recently implemented in the country, many people felt that the sudden saturation of tournament football has been to the detriment of the competition itself. The decision for South Africa to hold the competition was not the original plan however, so the country should be admired for its ability to quickly organise a large-scale tournament in a less-than-ideal timeframe. Libya originally won the voting for the 2013 finals, but with the recent developments in the country it was decided that such a venue would be unsuitable.
It is easy to see why the 2013 ACoN was viewed by many as an unnecessary distraction purely due to the extreme density of tournament football in Africa recently. The infrastructure of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was put to good use in the 2013 ACoN, although attendances were noticeably smaller with less of a world travelling fan base and the local populous already having spent big on supporting their side and observing neutrals. With the WC2010 and the exhausting but exhilarating ACoN 2012 still fresh in recent memory, it was inevitable that ACoN 2013 would see some worldwide interest wane. Those who had hoped to see Zambia replicate the heroics of 2012 were left sorely disappointed, as the champions departed at the group stage. The story of the 2012 Zambian team is one which will surely illuminate future generations to come.
The Copper Bullets
Zambia truly won over the hearts of the watching world with their heroic performances on the way to lifting the 2012 ACoN title; after all, everybody loves an underdog. The un-fancied nation defeated perennial underachieving giants Cote d’Ivoire in the final, after one of the world’s most recognisable strikers; Didier Drogba missed a penalty in normal time. Zambia managed to hold the Ivoirians at bay to defeat the tournament favourites on penalties. The sight of Zambia manager Herve Renard carrying his injury-stricken player onto the pitch to celebrate the historic victory with his teammates gripped all onlookers to the television in what was truly a dramatic match for the neutral and obviously the citizens of the respective countries. A truly remarkable and heart-warming element to the Zambian tale was surely the dedication of the team to honour the memory of the 1993 side who tragically perished in the Gabon air disaster.
The story of the Zambian team represents what the neutral truly watches tournament football for: the unexpected spectacle. Although ACoN 2013 may have suffered from tournament fatigue, hopefully the move will benefit future competitions.