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Big Slap in the Face for Africa

THE African Cup of Nations clash between hosts Angola and Algeria on Monday evening can only be described as a disgrace — a slap in the face of African football.

The two teams played some of the most negative football ever seen, refusing to cross the halfway line and seemingly comfortable with playing a game of keep-ball in defence.

There was no attacking intent whatsoever in the second half from either side as they both knew that a draw would be enough to take them through to the knockout stages — as Mali were beating Malawi.

Football fans love flowing, attacking football, seeing the two sides go hammer and tongs in search of a winning goal or a late equaliser, none of this nonsense where teams refuse to go forward in order to preserve their lead or what Angola and Algeria did on Monday.

Any discussions of the match being fixed so that the two nations could progress have been dispelled by both camps, but it is a little too coincidental that a side who had scored six goals in two games prior to the match would not be interested in adding a few more to their tally? Even if it was just to impress the president of their country who was in the directors box?

With Mali winning their match, the permutations were that if Angola lost, they were out, while if Algeria lost, they would have to return home. So with that in mind, we are supposed to believe that there weren’t a few words said at half time between the teams?

Algeria coach Rabah Saadane reacted angrily when asked about the possibility of match fixing after the match, snarling: “Don’t come out with that sort of question, I don’t accept at all that this was a fixed match and that we had some sort of agreement with the Angolan team to play for a draw.”

However, it would have been a disaster for the host nation to go out — so it was in their best interests to strike a deal with Algeria so that they could both go through. By asking The Desert Foxes not to score a goal, The Black Antelopes guaranteed that they would do the same — ensuring progression for the duo.

Now this may sound like a conspiracy theory, but how else can you explain the change in emphasis from the first half to the second. The first period produced some good attacking play which should have resulted in a goal or two, but the second stanza was a dull, negative, boring affair.

Possible match fixing aside, the repercussions of such a display may be a lot bigger than anyone thinks.
Algeria have qualified for the World Cup. Why would anyone in their right mind want to go and watch them play after a display like that?

Local Organising Committee CEO Danny Jordaan recently complained about the lack of interest from the fans of the African nations who have qualified for the showpiece which starts in June — but judging by what happened on Monday it is not hard to see why.

Negative vibes have been created by Angola and Algeria and it is not good for the African game. Many countries around the world are able to watch Afcon — hope they didn’t tune in to the embarrassment that was Monday night.

While its certain that no action will be taken by the Confederation of African Football against the two teams, as they have both angrily quashed claims of any wrongdoing already, this must serve as a wakeup call that all is not right with the game on the continent — and the sooner it is eradicated the better, especially in a World Cup year. —

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