Abedi Pele is on a mission

FOOTBALL legend Abedi Pele, who is in the country accompanying the Africa Cup of Nations trophy on the South African tour, says his mission is to drum up interest among countries who failed to qualify for the tournament.

FOOTBALL legend Abedi Pele, who is in the country accompanying the Africa Cup of Nations trophy on the South African tour, says his mission is to drum up interest among countries who failed to qualify for the tournament.

Speaking during the tour of the trophy in Johannesburg yesterday, the three-time African Footballer of the Year said they had also visited the countries that have not qualified for the tournament for the same reason.

The biennial showpiece will be hosted by Angola from January 10 to 31 next year. The Cup is on its way to Angola, where the final draw will be conducted on Friday.

"We are going around to create interest among soccer lovers to support the African Cup of Nations in Angola. We are all waiting with bated breath for the kickoff. We should also keep the vibe for the World Cup finals," he said.

South Africa, the 2010 World Cup hosts, will be conspicuous by their absence in Angola after failing for the first time to qualify for the event since winning it on home soil in 1996.

Though Pele referred to Bafana Bafana as "powerhouses", he would not be drawn on speculating how the national team's absence at the continental spectacle would affect their performance in the World Cup, which is 204 days away.

"We can only tell after the World Cup whether Bafana not being present in the African tournament is a bad thing. It may be that they are fresher than those players who played in the Nations Cup.

"Players are not machines and perhaps the calendar in which we play the tournament could be changed one day, but I don't think it will happen in the near future," Pele said.

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