‘Twas highly anticipated, it came and now it’s ended, The 32nd Biennial tournament of the African Cup of Nations, AFCON 2019 hosted by Egypt.
24 teams contested for one trophy, but eventually only one team could lay their hands on it, a team In Algeria.
The Algerian side kept a clean record of not losing throughout this tournament, and really deserved to win the trophy 29 years later.
After the final, which saw Algeria edge Senegal 1-0, Naijafootballplus.com correspondent, Timothy Dehinbo had former Football Association of Zambia, FAZ President and Current CAF and FIFA executive committee member, the person of Kalusha Bwalya in an exclusive interview as he reviewed the tournament.
Mr Kalusha Bwalya described the tournament after been asked on how he’ll describe the AFCON 2019, and he had this to say;
” It’s been a wonderful tournament, when we started with 24 teams, we thought on what it would bring for us, but the facilities have been fantastic and Egypt has done a fantastic job in hosting Africa, from the pyramids and all that afterwards we saw that the facilities were superb, you look at Cairo Stadium, Ismail stadium were I was, the pitch is one of the best you’d ever see”.
“Everything in this competition was good, so we can’t complian about the facilities, and I think it’s probably one of the best. I’ve been to many African Nations, and I think Egypt pulls the best facilities, best hotels, good training pitches for this tournament, and in all it was an Awesome competition” Kalusha said.
When the draws were made, probably only 15% of Africans would have adjudged to see Benin and Madagascar play in the Quarter Finals of the tournament, but so it did happen. Benin made Morocco lose out, South Africa ended Egypt’s play, Madagascar topped a group that had Nigeria, as debutants.
And Kalusha Bwalya says what he thinks these ‘underdogs’ performances at the AFCON. He said;
“Of course, Madagascar, Benin were good. In the group stage, we had 3 unbeaten teams, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt, but afterwards a situation where the number 3 teams, the best 3rd placed teams like Benin and South Africa went past Morocco and Egypt respectively”.
“But Overall, teams like Madagascar, played good football, not only because they beat Nigeria, but like you said, they punched above their weights, but in the Quarter Final, it was a bridge to far for them, but definitely, they’ll come back with a bang “.
“For these teams, there’s been a lot of progression, and everyone of them enjoyed their football, and I’m really happy for them”.
Mr Kalusha was asked on the team who surprised him the most and his standout players. He had this to say;
” Yes, each team were surprising too me, but the big players came to play their best of football, you could see Mahrez for Algeria, he just won it since 1990 when they hosted and won it”
” For Mane, I thought he was good, he ran his socks off today, and was running, being all over the place and wanted to do something for Senegal to lay their hands on the cup “.
” I think that Mo Salah was unlucky, he had good games, good passing, but he wasn’t at the end of the passes he gave, but he scored some very good goals and every team had outstanding individuals “.
” Algeria were really strong and complete, they made their intention known from the beginning of the tournament, and I’m really pleased for Coach Mamadi , and the players who have set this stage lightened up “.
This AFCON had the VAR introduced from the Quarter Final stage, and it brought about little controversies, for some it was good, for some was bad, and Kalusha Bwalya says Africa has to be patient with the VAR.
” I always say in terms of VAR, you know it’s new to us as Africans, we have to be patient. I don’t want to think that the VAR has come to influence the matches, but it has come to help us, to get a good conclusion and give a second look to match situations “.
” I think it will grow on us as Africans, you know we’re always quick to criticize as Africans, but I think we have to be patient, and let the referees work, not putting them under much pressure, and allow them make the rich decisions. We saw the games that were played from the beginning of the competition, which the VAR wasn’t needed, but let’s wait and give VAR a chance in Africa and I’m sure it would be a success ” ; Mr Kalusha Said.
For a Zambian Legend like Kalusha Bwalya, who was Africa’s player of the year in 1988, and was the 12th best footballer in the world in 1994, and also the Former Federation President of Zambia he had something to say about his country Zambia, who have now missed the AFCON twice in a row.
“As for Zambia, I think that there are other people who are there with the team, and I think they’ll be the best people to make summary of why Zambia hasn’t been able to qualify for the AFCON twice in a row, and I think they need to go back to the black board, and make things move smoothly, but having said so, Zambia have got good players, and individuals who were really missed individuals for this tournament, likes of Parson Daka, Sakala, Stopila Sunzu etc, these players would have brought something to the AFCON, because this is what Zambia does when it comes to such a tournament” . Mr Kalusha said.
This AFCON is gone already and teams have the 2021 tournament to prepare for, as all teams have been drawn already for the Qualifier.