On the eve of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, former Leeds United and South Africa captain, Lucas Radebe, told a national newspaper about his fears for the tournament after another low turnout from Premier League players.
The tournament, which kicked off in South Africa on Saturday, is Africa’s major international football event and is widely anticipated to be an exciting contest this winter. Yet poor scheduling, according to Radebe, is keeping top-flight players away from the competition as they choose to represent their club sides instead.
“The only way to change it is to bring the competition in line with the European leagues but that is something the organisers don’t want to do,” Radebe told The Independent.
“But now [players] are suffering because clubs know they will lose them for more than a month in the middle of the season and can be reluctant to let them leave.”
Indeed, Radebe is absolutely correct in his assertion that Afcon players have missed out despite the standard of football in Africa growing to unprecedented levels. For while African players now litter Europe’s major leagues the development of international football on the continent is still way below its potential.
Players cannot or do not want to play in a tournament that cuts into their season. In 2011, there were 37 internationals from Africa in the Premier League, yet a year later just 13 attended the Africa Cup of Nations; that is over half of the 28 that played in 2006, despite six further years of development.
This year will see 15 Premier League players in the competition plus a good number of others from around Europe. Yet there is real concern from Premier League betting fans that if players – such as Steven Pienaar of South Africa and Morocco’s Marouane Chamakh – continue to stay away, then the tournament will fall into neglect within the next decade.
Afcon organisers have already switched the biannual event to odd years in order to avoid clashing with World Cups– a decision that should progress to playing in the summer months if they are to make this tournament available to all players.
Interested in the Afcon? Pay a visit to the African Cup of Nations website on Betfair for the latest odds, picks, and news for the tournament: http://betting.betfair.com/football/african-cup-of-nations/