When the confederation of African Football (CAF) announced this tournament in September 2007, the primary idea was to offer footballers featuring exclusively in their domestic championships a platform to compete at the highest level for their respective nations.
Hitherto the introduction of the CHAN, players competing in their national leagues had little or no chance of representing their national sides.
The African Cup of Nations (AFCON), introduced in the 1950?s to provide the avenue for footballers featuring in their ‘Local’ leagues to compete at the national level has since long taken a different dimension.
Records from the last six (6) editions of the AFCON suggests that over 86% of the squads assembled by the various African countries were plying their trades in Europe during the tournaments, with several others based in Asia.
The implications were that, indeed the African Cup of Nations was really not ‘African’. CAF having realised the repercussions decided for the CHAN and it was precisely desired.
Home and Home Alone:
The CHAN player eligibility criteria as outlined by CAF seeks to assemble from the respective domestic divisional clubs the best of Home-based talents available.
The strict idea of it been played between senior national teams with only players based in their home country’s domestic league will been eligible.
Stars playing in Europe and even those who have moved to other African leagues are not be allowed to take part.
When CAF President Issa Hayatou stated at the introduction of the tournament that “We strive to give to the local African players the possibility to showcase their talents and abilities, but also to bring to a higher level the national championships in Africa, and to boost their importance,” it also had more to look out for.
The previous editions of the CHAN (2009 in Ivory Coast and 2011 in Sudan) have proven that aside the all important idea of giving the ‘local’ footballers a chance of a lifetime at the national level, the tournaments also is to test the strengths of the African leagues.
Because of the limitations on club player registrations and unequal distribution of resources amongst clubs on the continent, the CHAN will therefore be the rightful oven to put together a combined team of a nations best stars from all the competing top flight sides.
Absence of the Pharaoh and The Giants
Despite the continental governing body’s underlining motive of the CHAN, the previous editions has had to cope with several notable absentees in Egypt, Morroco, South Africa and Nigeria.
The latter pulled out from the 2011 edition in Cote d’Ivoire citing financial reasons. Egypt who have been the strongest national team on the continent by far has practically downplayed the importance of the tourney since its inception.
The Pharaoh’s asked to be allowed to present their youth team at the inaugural tournament on grounds that the senior side needed adequate time to prepare for other ‘important’ matches.
Even likes of Benin, Eritrea and Namibia have had reason opting out of the Championships calling to question the relevance of the Championship.
Notwithstanding the relative positive publicity the tournament has enjoyed in recent years, this third edition in South Africa will still be without key nations like defending champions Tunisia, Algeria and super-powers Egypt (whose home-base players dominate Ahly’s 2013 CAF champions league winning side).
CHAN 2009- DR Congo’s Strength In Mazembe
When likes of Ivory Coast, Zambia, Senegal, DR Congo, Zimbabwe, Ghana and Libya lined up for the first tourney in Abidjan, the IFFHS had before the championships ranked the the Ivorian League as the 8th strongest on the continent, the best amongst the 8 participating teams.
The Ghanaian League ranked 11th with Zimbabwe and Libya (12th and 15th) in that order.
Eventually, the DR Congo, one of the lowly rated teams according to the IFFHS (Ranked 17th) won the trophy defeating Ghana 2-0 in the finals.
Not to forget that the DRC’s club TP Mazembe were African Champions at club level and had paraded virtually all the players that conquered the continent the previous year.
Moteba Kidiaba, Bedi Mbenza, Kasongo Ngandu, Mihayo Kasembe, Miala Nkulukuta, Mputu Mabi had run riot on the continent to claim the CAF champions league and it wasnt by fluke the DR Congo outplayed Ghana in the finals.
CHAN 2011- Tunisia Thrives With Esperance
The second etidition of the championship hosted by Sudan saw an increase in the number of participating teams from 8 to 16.
Three North African teams in Libya, Algeria and Tunisia entered the competition as the strongest regional participants by rankings.
Tunisia parading a host of the Esperance stars who were finalists in the 2010 CAF champions league and winners in 2011 in keeper Moez Ben Cherifa, Yousif Msakni, Oussam Darraghi and Walid Hichri.
The ‘Domestic’ Carthage Eagles also had in their fold five players each from the 2011 CAF confederations cup finalists Club Africain and 2010 winners CS Sfaxien.
The Sami Trabelsi led team thus lived up the pre tournament hype by winning the tournament beating Algeria 2-0 in the finals and without losing a single match.
Uganda, Ghana and Rwanda finished as the lowest ranked teams after the tournament without a single point.
A testament of the three nations poor run in the previous years’ continental club competition. Clubs from these three nations exited either in the preliminary round or the second phase.
2014- A Test of Strength In Mzansi
When the third tournament kicks off in Cape Town on January 11th, the ‘Black Galaxy’ of Ghana will hope to be third time lucky after faltering in the previous two.
The Maxwell Konadu led boys will have to fight off stiff competition from another pre tournament favourites and host nation South Africa.
The Bafana Bafana have in recent years relied mostly on stars in the domestic league (SPL) and it seems to be paying off.
The Bafana Bafana has rediscovered confidence especially after shocking world champions Spain in a 1-0 friendly win.
The DR Congo will also be tough customers in South Africa as they present 7 players from the 2011 edition including 3 surviving stars from the maiden tournament.
Meanwhile the DR Congo coach Mutumbile Santos will be without talistman Tresor Mputu, who recently joined Angolan side Kabuscorp from TP Mazembe.
Mputu was named most valuable player of the maiden CHAN edition won by his national side.
The Walya Antelopes of Ethiopia even with their group stage exit in last years’ nations cup won many hearts in South Africa and beyond.
Coach Sewnet Bishaw has named 19 of the side that played Nigeria in the 2014 World Cup play-offs and you cannot be sure of what is under the carpet with these East Africans.
And finally, Nigeria have rescinded its decision to withdraw from the competition but the Super Eagles have named a weakened squad for the tourney.
Stephen Keshi kept same low-lying atmosphere during the Afcon and he won it. Nigeria nonetheless their pre-tournament problems cannot be pushovers.
When the sixteen (16) Home-based National stars line up in South Africa on the 11th of January 2014, there wont be only a trophy to fight for, There’ll be a platform to showcase which really is the strongest league in Africa.