Less than three years after it hosted the football World Cup, South Africa is once again in the spotlight. This time, staging the Africa Cup of Nations – the continent’s biggest sporting event.
But can this tournament boost the image of African football abroad?
South Africa already has many of the facilities needed to host these types of events, because it invested billions of dollars for the World Cup in 2010. A report on that spending, which was released in November, says:
There are no definitive figures on how much South Africa earned from the event, but the report said the World Cup left an intangible legacy and changed the country’s international image.
Some people remember Cameroon’s World Cup run in 1990 as the moment when African football burst on to the world scene, and they became the continent’s first team to reach the quarter finals.
But in the last few years, it feels like football has stagnated. Barely a handful of African teams have made it past the first round in a World Cup since then.
Still, the World Cup in South Africa was a boost to African pride and it also saw Ghana get through to the quarter finals.
As the Africa Cup of Nations now comes to a close, all eyes are on Burkina Faso and Nigeria who will play for the right to be named champions of Africa on Sunday. They earned their place in the final after beating tournament favourites Ghana last week.
Nigeria’s much praised performance at this tournament brought back memories of its glory days during the 1990s, when the team dominated African football.
For rank underdogs Burkina Faso, this is only the second time they have made it past the first round. So getting to the final in itself was a great accomplishment, although they will certainly be looking to go all the way on Sunday.
But away from the action on the field, there are plenty of other winners and losers.
While top European clubs are constantly on the search for the next undiscovered talent in African football, there is a dark side to the rise of the sport in Africa: a growth in the trafficking of young men trying to make it professionally, many of whom are tricked by agents and end up living on the streets of Europe’s capitals.
So, has African football improved since South Africa brought the World Cup to the continent in 2010? Is football heading in the right direction, or is the game stagnating in Africa?