Rainier Plahar

2010 will be a huge year for all stakeholders of African football and specifically football in Southern Africa. Besides South Africa hosting the FIFA World Cup next summer, Angola will be playing host to the continent's finest nations in approximately two months.

Attention on Angola has hitherto been blighted due to the much bigger tournament in South Africa. However, with the 10th January kick-off date fast approaching, Angola is gradually wrestling it's way into the spotlight.

When the country first won the rights to host the biennial event, it was deemed as a victory for Southern African football and the rest of the zone six nations respectively (international football in Africa is partitioned into six zones, Southern Africa is zone six). Indeed Angola's chance to host the tournament is thought to have grown after zone six compatriots, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique all had their bids thrown out by the continent's governing body, CAF.

Just like Ghana in 2008, matches in Angola will be played in four stadiums. The four venues, situated in Cabinda, Huila, Bengema and Camama, have all been built from scratch at an estimated cost of between $600M to $1 billion US dollars. A few concerns have been raised by unenthusiastic locals about the staggering amount involved in hosting the the rest of the continent. These are concerns that appear to be at least remotely legitimate considering that Angola's two main exports, oil and diamonds, have dipped considerably.
Football however, is a big deal in the Portuguese speaking country. Government officials counter that the building of infrastructure including stadiums, roads and hotels will create much needed employment for Angolans. What is priceless though is the expected healing and unification of a country that escaped the throes of nearly three decades of intense civil war: A war that only ended in 2002.

With qualification to the World Cup settled, and pairings of the African Cup of Nations now known, the football spirit in Africa is steadily being harnessed to focus on Angola. The groups which were drawn last Friday have some potentially thrilling clashes. Expectations of the host nation by locals will undoubtedly be enormous, those expectations should be  tinged with a bit of caution now though, as Angola is in a somewhat tricky group.

Indeed a cursory glance at all four groups points to a seemingly thrilling group phase.


Barring Egypt, all favourites for the tournament will be contesting the World Cup next summer. This actually might help the underdogs as there is the possibility each World Cup representative may try out and tweak formations in Angola. All in all African football has grown tremendously over the past few years and the football on show will be satisfactory enough for the neutral.

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