Friday, December 7, 2007

Chelsea Coach Speaks Out Against Cup of Nations

It's a common theme among big-name coaches in Europe:
Most are against the timing of the African Cup of Nations.

This is a good and bad thing.

Good in that it means more Africans are infiltrating the dressing rooms of top world football clubs like Barcelona and Chelsea.

Bad in that it's annoying to hear these coaches biting the hand that feeds them.

Africa has a right to stage their continental competition when they see fit. Although I strongly feel they shouldn't cave in to European demands simply because Old World powerhouses are calling for these changes, it's evident that changes need to be made. The Nations Cup scheduling is hurtful to the teams that pay big money to salary their African stars.

As more Africans play at world-class clubs and as more Africans proser at these clubs, the more their services are going to be missed and the angrier the clubs will get.

It's really a lose-lose situation in many ways.

Today, Chelsea coach Avram Grant became the latest to pop off on the African Cup of Nations timing.

Grant has called for the tournament to be played in June or July in the future as he faces the prospect of coping without striker Didier Drogba.

Ivory Coast captain Drogba is committed to playing for his country, which starts January 20th, although he has a knee injury and may require surgery.

Chelsea will decide in the next week whether an operation is required but already know Salomon Kalou, John Obi Mikel and Michael Essien will be away for up to a month when they play in Ghana in the new year.

When Grant was asked if the tournament should be moved to suit the European soccer calendar in future, he was quite vocal.

"Of course, I think everybody wants it (a scheduling change) but it doesn't depend on me," he told a news conference at Chelsea's training ground.

"We need to think about this. When they started the African Nations Cup there were not so many players playing in Europe. Now the Africans have many players in the Premier League and in other leagues -- and in my opinion it will be even more in the next few years. So we need to think about this because it's not good for the players or the clubs. It would be better in the summer but I cannot change it, I can only say my opinion."

Drogba is 90 percent certain to miss this weekend's Premier League match at home to Sunderland according to Grant and the timing of his operation could have an impact on his availability for the African Nations Cup.

Grant said Drogba and the club had known about the problem for some months but the striker insisted on playing.

"He pushes to play even now but we must take care of the health of the player. We will see what is good for him. At the moment we will keep an eye on the situation then we will know what will happen," Grant said.

When asked if the player would require surgery, the manager said: "Maybe. We don't know yet, we will know better in the next days."

In other news, Samuel Eto'o is expected to play his first minutes since September with Barcelona this weekend. He's been recuperating from a leg injury. Good luck to you, Sammy. Stay fit.

1 comment:

Chxta said...

We can't ignore the fact that in most of the continent, what is summer in Europe is a rainy season of the kind that Europeans aren't used to. Also we have to consider this solid point about what the players are likely to do, especially given that the Nations Cup is now the most regular of the continental competitions. Those players will disappear and be out of shape by the time the games are played. Most claiming they are tired and need a rest. Quality will go down (think Kaka and Ronaldinho opting out of the Copa America). It will become another CONCACAF Gold Cup with mostly local players on show, which is what the fans don't want. Plus World Cup qualifying would now have to have a different schedule...

I think the solution may lie in possibly pushing the Nations Cup in its entirety into January, changing its frequency from 2 to 4 years and implementing a winter break in England. That way, the African players are in camp during the Xmas holiday (once every four years), and would be playing the Nations Cup before the resumption of hostilities at their clubs.