KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- The African Cup of Nations finally kicked off in Cameroon today with the hosts beating Burkina Faso 2-1 at the Paul Biya stadium in Yaounde in a tournament which is wide open. Cape Verde beat Ethiopia 1-0 in the day’s other game.
African football needs the tournament to generate some exciting football and keep the focus on the pitch rather than the troubled political and administrative background.
Recently deposed and disgraced confederation president Ahmad Ahmad had tried vainly to switch the tournament permanently to a summer hosting to keep happy the European clubs who provide almost all the star names then the certainty of Cameroon being maintained as host hung on a knife-edge.
In the background world football federation FIFA effectively took over the running of CAF to try to impose some semblance of order to ongoing chaos. That resulted in the election as president last year of South African businessman Patrice Motsepe, enthusiastically supported by FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
Finally the football started amid a row over Covid testing described as a “scandal” by Burkina Faso captain Bertrand Traore and assistant coach Firmin Sanou.
Aston Villa’s Traore and Sanou spoke up at the pre-match press conference.
Sanou said: “We have four or five cases of Covid. Yesterday morning a medical team showed up at the hotel to do tests but when we tried to find out who had sent it, the CAF clearly told us that it was not them, so we refused to do the tests.
“Then we had to wait until late in the evening for the real CAF medical team to to do the tests.”
Traoré said that “instead of doing a PCR, which should have been done in the morning to meet the 48-hour deadline, they forced us to do an antigen test and this morning we found out that we have positive cases.”
In the end Burkina Faso were missing six players against their hosts.
Elsewhere Senegal, beaten by Algeria in the 2019 final, are set to have just 17 players available for their Group B opener against Zimbabwe because of injuries and Covid-19 cases.
Guinea and opponents Malawi have also been hit by outbreaks while Morocco pair Aymen Barkok and Auyoub El Kaabi are out of their Group C opener.
Gabon captain Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang will not face debutants Comoros after testing positive on arrival in Cameroon on Thursday.