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By unknown | Jan 18, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

Africa Cup of Nations fever has gripped the west African country of Ghana, who are ready to host the who's who of global soccer.

The 26th edition of the tournament starts on Sunday.

Ghana, the first African country to gain independence from Britain in 1957, has rolled out a red carpet at Accra's Kotoka International Airport to welcome the 15 other countries taking part, referees, soccer leaders, government officials, talent scouts, sponsors, journalists and ordinary supporters.

Reports from Ghana are that the Local Organising Committee has promised to put on a good show and give the tournament the respect it deserves.

Anthony Baffoe, the LOC international affairs director, said: "We know that certain people in other continents will also be sceptical about the success of the 2010 World Cup if Ghana fails to deliver a great tournament. Ghana won't fail Africa."

Some of the world's influential soccer players will also be on display in this biennial tournament, which ends on February 10.

They include Samuel Eto'o of Cameroon, Didier Drogba of Ivory Coast, Frederick Kanoute (Mali), Obafemi Martins (Nigeria), Salomon Kalou (Ivory Coast), Pape Bouba Diop (Senegal) and Michael Essien (Ghana).

Southern Africa, represented by Bafana Bafana, the Brave Warriors of Namibia, Angola and Zambia's Chipolopolo, have several players doing duty in Europe.

They include Sibusiso Zuma and Aaron Mokoena of Bafana Bafana; Manucho Goncalves of Angola, Chris Katongo of Zambia and Quinton Jacobs of Namibia.

Goncalves will join Manchester United after the Afcon.

At the same time it is also a golden opportunity for youngsters such as Teko Modise and Thembinkosi Fanteni of South Africa, Zamibia's Emmanuel Mayuka, Andre Ayew of Ghana, Muna Katupose of Namibia and Uche Ikechukwu of Nigeria to make a name for themselves.

Ayew is the son of the legendary Abedi Pele. Just like his father, Ayew has been selected to represent Ghana at the age of 17.

Early favourites to win are hosts Ghana, who won the title when they first qualified as hosts in 1963, the Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Cameroon and Egypt.

It will be suicidal to brush aside Nigeria, whose German coach Berti Vogts was told by soccer authorities to win the title or be fired.

Dark horses include our own spirited Bafana Bafana, Senegal, Morocco and Mali.

Ghana will be under extreme pressure, more than any of the other 15 participating countries, by virtue of being the hosts.

In the absence of inspirational captain Stephen Appiah, who is injured, Ghana start their campaign against Guinea at Ohene Gyan Stadium at 7pm SA time on Sunday.

Ghanaians will look up to Essien to help the Black Stars to repeat the feat of the two previous hosts, Tunisia (2004) and Egypt (2006). who both won the tournaments they hosted.

The next 25 days will tell if Ghana are up to the task of equalling the record of five titles held by the Pharaohs of Egypt.

lRamatsiyi Moholoa will cover the tournament in Ghana as a guest of Standard Bank.


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