Afcon provides valuable lessons

When we left Ghana last week a debate had erupted on whether the Africa Cup of Nations should continue to be held early in the year or later to accommodate the European football season.

When we left Ghana last week a debate had erupted on whether the Africa Cup of Nations should continue to be held early in the year or later to accommodate the European football season.

According to Fifa president Sepp Blatter, a decision that delays the tournament would benefit the African nations qualifying for the World Cup, especially for 2010.

CAF president Issa Hayatou wants the situation to remain as is, apparently for the purposes of increasing revenues and therefore building the capacity of the confederation, as well as growing African football.

The former view is seen by some African football administrators as informed by the interests of European clubs who employ the services of the gifted players from the continent and therefore has to be resisted.

The latter view is seen by most of the leading coaches, especially of the leading clubs, as disruptive to their various programmes and tournaments and that most of the best talent Africa has to offer gets exposed to injuries in the Afcon that their countries would not be compensated for.

This debate may in time determine the time-frames of this showpiece of Africa's most gifted players. As for 2010, not much would have changed around the tournament except that it is going to be played much earlier in January in Angola.

For the moment the fiesta continues in Ghana with South Africans very despondent following the routing by Tunisia on Sunday. Angola is emerging as a powerhouse given its demolition of Senegal over the weekend.

The Ghanaians are very hospitable people. The Afcon hosts also have Michael Essien as one of their best talents. They are very proud of him and he has justified their faith in him by making sure his nation qualifies for the next round with a complete winning record in the opening stages.

While South Africa is still licking wounds and facing the embarrassing prospect of going out of the tournament in the group stages, Ghana's successes on the field of play have served to cancel embarrassments off it.

Behind the scenes things have not gone so smoothly for the Local Organising Committee. There were a variety of problems with the logistical planning of the event, including some that could easily derail the event. Fortunately, mercifully, the competing nations have more than lifted the expectations with their great performances.

Observing the unfolding drama, I was reminded of how the World Cup Organising Committee's Danny Jordaan always insists that for 2010 we should leave nothing to chance but pay particular attention to detail.

Things that appear mundane, like proper visible signage in and around the stadium, improve the match experience of the thousands of football fans.

The media require proper accreditation, accommodation and access to matches as well as good working space and facilities for them to concentrate on taking the game to millions more supporters.

The officials require professionally organised transport arrangements and relevant information for them to run matches successfully. The list goes on and on. Plan, prepare, organize, rehearse, refine and implement. That is what we at the 2010 Organising Committee have come to learn and it is a serious challenge, but it is worth it if we are to deliver an excellent World Cup.

Our visit with some of our colleagues to Ghana, courtesy of CAF, has made us appreciate even more the drill of thoroughly preparing ahead of time.

Where the Ghana organisers may have come short, their compatriots more than made up with their hospitality. Talent and football wise, the tournament is going to be a great success.

l Tim Modise is the 2010 World Cup SA Local Organising Committee's head of communications. - For your suggestions, queries and more on 2010, e-mail