THE Africa Cup of Nations finals in Angola will be the best ever with the 2010 Fifa World Cup coming to the mother continent for the first time in its history.
This is according to World Cup ambassador Kalusha Bwalya, who is also one of the best players to come out of Africa.
"The Afcon in Angola is going to be the most important ever, considering the first-ever World Cup in Africa is also taking place in the Southern Africa region," he said.
"The tournament in Angola is a dress rehearsal for the World Cup, many of the players who will also be here for the World Cup will be seen in action during the Afcon.
"The Afcon has changed tremendously from the one in 1996 where some of us played at the finals in Johannesburg. It's more vibrant and the current players are getting well-deserved recognition, not only here in Africa but across the globe.
"In the past, it was mainly us here in Africa and those following European football who were passionate about the Afcon finals. The interest for those in Europe is because the majority of great players in that continent are from Africa, which is good for the development of football.
"We have players like Michael Essien, Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto'o, Christopher Katongo, Emmanuel Adebayor, Steven Pienaar and Nwankwo Kanu who are doing well in Europe.
"Lately, the Afcon has also generated interest in Asia and America. Their clubs are also chasing some of our youngsters."
Other African players plying their trade in Europe include Aaron Mokoena, Frederick Kanouté, Obafemi Martins, Benni McCarthy, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Simao and Isaac Chansa.
"For me the Afcon finals will be the biggest advert for Africa ahead of the World Cup," Bwalya said. "It is not easy to make a prediction. Many people are tipping Ivory Coast but it's gonna be tough for all. It's good that five African teams in the World Cup will be there."