“Anyone who has travelled on Qatar Airways recently will have been afforded the exciting opportunity to watch a short feature all about Gianni Infantino on their in-flight entertainment. In the midst of 15 very self-aggrandising minutes about football’s glorious leader, Infantino says about this World Cup: ‘For Qatar and for the Middle East in general, it’s an opportunity to present themselves to the world.’ We’ll gloss over for a moment how patronising that sounds, and instead consider the interesting question his statement inspires: to what extent is this a World Cup for Qatar, and to what extent is this a World Cup for the Middle East/Arabic nations/the Muslim world? Does this World Cup represent an entire region? …” The Athletic (Video)
“Club football is back and with fewer than 50 days for players to find form and fitness before the World Cup kicks off on November 20, Poland’s Robert Lewandowski, Leandro Trossard of Belgium and USA forward Ricardo Pepi laid down a marker at the weekend. Off the pitch, coaches are already being rewarded before the tournament kicks off with Wales extending Rob Page’s contract and Argentina set to keep Lionel Scaloni as head coach until the 2026 World Cup in the USA, Canada and Mexico. …” The Athletic
“The September international break is normally relatively relaxed — a chance to tweak tactics and focus on formations. Not this time. For almost all 32 competing nations, this is the final set of international fixtures before the World Cup begins in Qatar on November 20. So that you can go into the break feeling prepared, The Athletic has identified one issue every team need to try to fix this break…” The Athletic (Video)
“CAIRO, Egypt — On Sunday, as Ahmed Abdel Zaher turned to celebrate scoring his side’s second goal in the final of the African champions league, he did something strange with his outstretched right hand. He extended his four fingers, and tucked his thumb over his palm. The goal itself was significant—it ensured that Cairo’s mighty Al-Ahly team would beat South Africa’s Orlando Pirates for its eighth champions league title. But in Egypt, it was Abdel Zaher’s celebration that later stole the limelight. For his four-fingered salute has over the past three months become a potent and divisive sign of opposition to the overthrow of Egypt’s former president, Mohamed Morsi. …” Road & Kingdoms (2013) Reading List: Ronnie Close In Conversation with Ronnie Close about Cairo’s Ultras (Audio) amazon
“Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane conjures up the image of an enraged bull when he is on the warpath. His deadly stare, menacing temper and sharp tongue pierce his detractors when he is cornered. But if you listen to him closely, and look at the bigger battle he is waging, an angry Mosimane is more like a matador. The anger that he flashes like a giant red cape for all to see conceals a deadlier weapon that you never see coming if you don’t watch closely. That weapon helps Mosimane control the narrative while many focus on the anger. …” New Frame W – Pitso Mosimane W – Al Ahly SC
Islam Slimani celebrates his crucial goal in Douala where Algeria took a 1-0 first-leg lead
“Algeria inflicted a rare home defeat on Cameroon as the 2019 African champions took a crucial 1-0 lead from the first leg of their 2022 World Cup play-off. Playing in Douala, where Cameroon have been unbeaten since losing a Nations Cup qualifier in 2000, veteran Islam Slimani’s winner handed Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi the perfect 46th birthday present. Five minutes before the break, the former Leicester City striker rose to meet Youcef Belaili’s free-kick and power a header past Ajax goalkeeper Andrè Onana….” BBC
“There is a metaphor somewhere in Senegal’s first African Cup of Nations (Afcon) championship in its history. The 2021 Afcon, played last month and this week because of a postponement from last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ended Sunday with Sadio Mane, the Liverpool star, scoring the decisive penalty in the final. With that, a one-month-long festival of football by Africa’s men’s national teams and everything else that surrounded it came to an end. Most of the players now return to their clubs, where some of them are stars, mostly in Europe. There’s a metaphor in that too. …” Africa Is a Country
20 January 2022: A dejected Youcef Belaïli of Algeria during the Africa Cup of Nations match against Ivory Coast at Japoma Stadium in Douala, Cameroon.
“If anyone ever doubted the power of a football match result, just show them Algeria’s 270 minutes in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) that led to people completely second-guessing the success of The Fennecs. Prior to the tournament, Algeria had a 35-match unbeaten run, easily disposing of Ghana in a pre-tournament friendly. They were justifiably dubbed favourites alongside hosts Cameroon as well as Morocco and Senegal, yet they were sent packing after just three group-stage matches. It is a serious blow considering that, in the new 24-team Afcon format, four of the best third-placed teams also qualify for the knockout stage. …” New Frame
Egyptian fans celebrates in a street in Cairo after Egypt beat Cameroon in their African Cup of Nations quarter-final football match in Angola on January 25, 2010.
“Nearly every day when I arrive for work at the New Cairo campus of the American University in Cairo, I walk through the Omar Mohsen Gate. This pedestrian security gate was named after an undergraduate economics major who died violently at a 2012 soccer match in Port Said between Egyptian Premier League teams Al Ahly and Al Masry. The tenth anniversary of that match passed earlier this month on February 1st. Egyptians appeared to have hardly noted it. If they did, they did not say or write much about it, and with good reason: four days later, their Pharaohs of Egypt would play against the Téranga Lions of Senegal in the marquee final match of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon. The tension and drama of the final did not disappoint, though the outcome left many Egyptians disappointed as much as it left many Senegalese—whose team had never won the AFCON title—elated. …” Africa Is a Country W – Port Said Stadium riot
“A solid defence plus Mohamed Salah equals progress. It might not be particularly edifying or good to watch but it does seem to work. This was a dismal game, two hours of spoiling with a dusting of football but, in the football that was played, Salah was decisive. He scored the equaliser and set up the winner, so Egypt will meet Cameroon in Thursday’s semi-final, a meeting of the two most successful sides in Cup of Nation’s history. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson
“Senegal and Cameroon – they’ve each got about a 75% chance of reaching the AFCON 2021 semi-finals with dream quarter-final draws, but that’s about where the similarities end. We’ll start this off with one of those teams and end with the other while weaving through the remaining six sides with key numbers for each. A disclaimer before reading on: Teams playing attacking football (looking at you, Morocco) will be handsomely rewarded with more words. …” The Analyst
“In Zimbabwe, Malawi, South Africa and much of southern Africa, the rains which start falling in November, the onset of summer, are a welcome respite after the preceding dry, winter months. However welcome the rains are, the relief is sometimes tinged with a measure of trepidation – especially among some rural communities. After all, rains come with lightning and thunder. It so happens that our region receives a disproportionate amount of lightning compared to the rest of the world. One reason for the phenomenon is the minerals extant in the rocks beneath us that draw the electricity from the sky. Nonsense, some will say – the real reason is African metaphysics. …” New Frame
Abandoned shoes were the only evidence that there had been a problem before the match.
“In our series of letters from African writers, Algerian-Canadian football journalist Maher Mezahi, who is in Cameroon to cover the Africa Cup of Nations, reflects on how the recent deaths of fans at a stadium has left him with mixed feelings about the tournament. …” BBC (Video)
“It ended, as it had for a long time seemed that it would, with penalties. And as has happened twice before at the Africa Cup of Nations in the past 24 years, Egypt beat Ivory Coast on penalties after a 0-0 draw. Eric Bailly, who had had an excellent game, saw his dinked effort pushed against the crossbar by Egypt’s substitute keeper Mohamed Abou Gabal. Combined with Mohamed Salah’s decisive spot-kick, it was enough for Carlos Queiroz’s Egypt to progress. …” Guardian: Jonathan Wilson BBC: Ivory Coast 0 – 0 Egypt
Injured goalkeeper Salim Ben Boina sums up the mood in the Comoros camp.
“While the fairytale story of Comoros’s journey to the knockout stages of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations will some day make an inspirational feel-good movie, one suspects Disney’s scriptwriters will have to leave out some of the finer details on the grounds that audiences may find them just a little bit too far-fetched. Hailing from a financially impoverished archipelago with a population of less than one million people located off the east coast of the continent, Les Coelacantes pulled off something of a miracle in merely qualifying for Afcon but certainly weren’t expected to make it this far. …” Guardian
“In March 1957, Ghana cast off British colonialism and became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve political self-rule. At its independence celebrations, the new prime minister, Kwame Nkrumah, offered a hopeful message: ‘We are going to create our own African personality and identity. It is the only way we can show the world that we are ready for our own battles.’ I was remembering that line last week as I watched the early matches of the Africa Cup of Nations, a tournament of soccer teams representing 24 countries from across the continent. This year’s competition is being hosted by Cameroon; it began on Jan. 9 and runs until Feb. 6. …” NY Times
“Ivory Coast thumped Algeria 3-1 to send the defending champions crashing out of the Africa Cup of Nations finals following a disastrous Group E campaign. Nicolas Pépé’s fine solo goal early in the second half put the game out of sight, the Arsenal winger advancing into the penalty area and curling the ball into the far corner with his left foot. The Elephants led 2-0 at half-time thanks to Franck Kessié’s opener and an Ibrahim Sangaré header from Serge Aurier’s free-kick. …” Guardian Guardian: Africa Cup of Nations Group A,B,C,D,E,F
“Egypt is one of the most successful teams in Africa, a country known for its attacking-first style of football (especially under Hassan Shehata’s leadership) and that has won the Africa Cup of Nations a record seven times. … Taking over from former manager Hossam El Badry, whose period witnessed a great fluctuation in performance, this heightened pressure on Queiroz has proven to be successful. The technical staff includes Diyaa El Sayed, Mohamed Shawky, Essam El-Hadry, and Wael Gomaa, as well as performance analyst Mahmoud Seleem. This piece will look to investigate all aspects of Egypt’s play, including how players fit the game model and training sessions used in the process. …” Breaking the Lines W – Carlos Queiroz
“Each team have played two games at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations – some have already qualified for the last 16, some have very little hope of going any further. What have we learnt from the opening two matchdays so far? …” The Analyst
Pitso Mosimane with the African Super Cup, one of the three continental titles he won with Al Ahly in 2021.
“Pitso Mosimane has done enough winning in the last year, plus change, to talk about nothing else. In November 2020, only three months after he was appointed manager of the Egyptian club Al Ahly, he won the African Champions League title. He did so by beating Zamalek, Al Ahly’s fiercest rival. The final was cast as the derby of the century. Nobody in Egypt thought it was an exaggeration. Eight months later, he repeated the trick. The calendar contracted and concentrated by the pandemic, Al Ahly returned to the Champions League final in July to face Kaizer Chiefs, the team Mosimane had supported as a child in South Africa. He won again. He was showered with golden ticker tape on the field, then presented with bouquets of roses by government grandees when he returned to Cairo. …” NY Times
“The 33rd edition of the African Cup of Nations began today, Sunday, 9 January, in Cameroon. AIAC founder and editor Sean Jacobs joins Will to talk about the history of the tournament, its contemporary politics, and its relationship to the hegemony of European football. The most important question of all, of course, is who will win this year’s showpiece? Listen below for some predictions.” Africa Is a Country 1:11:15 (Audio)
24 September 2013: Orlando Pirates coach Roger De Sá reacts during an MTN 8 semifinal match against Kaizer Chiefs at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.
“Roger De Sá is not giving too much thought to the possibility of setting a South African record of sorts at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), which kicked off on 9 January and runs until 6 February. An Afcon winner with Bafana Bafana back in 1996, albeit as an unused substitution, the former goalkeeper could become the first South African to win a second gold in Africa’s premier competition should he help Egypt become champions for an eighth time. De Sá is coach of the Pharaohs. …” New Frame W – Roger De Sá
“First scheduled to start in June 2021 but subsequently brought forward to January last year to avoid Cameroon’s rainy season, the tournament has been delayed to 2022 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Confederation of African Football (Caf) has faced criticism over the timing of its continental showpiece, and last month had to address rumours the tournament would be further delayed or moved following the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. Former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright said some of the negative media coverage has been ‘disrespectful’ and ‘tinged with racism’. …” BBC (Video)
Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Edouard Mendy, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Maxwel Cornet and more will be gone for several weeks
“The Africa Cup of Nations begins next month, with over 30 Premier League players set to miss several weeks of the season as they head to Cameroon. Arsenal, Leicester City and Watford are each set to lose a league-high four players. Liverpool will lose three – including forwards Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane – as will Crystal Palace. Chelsea are going to be without keeper Edouard Mendy, who could miss the Fifa Club World Cup and league games against Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham, among others. …” BBC
Egyptian players reacting to the last-minute loss to Tunisia
“Tunisia will battle Algeria for gold at the FIFA Arab Cup™ after semi-final victories packed full of passion, tension and late, late drama. The Eagles of Carthage prevailed in the 95th minute, scoring with almost the last touch of a last-four duel with Egypt that had looked to be heading inexorably towards extra time. But if we thought that match-winning Amro Elsoulia own goal had been dramatic, we hadn’t seen anything yet. In the second of the day’s semis, Algeria looked to be heading for a deserved and fairly routine 1-0 win of their own until Mohammed Muntari popped up in the 97th minute to send home a thundering headed equaliser. But the delays and VAR check that followed extended stoppage time yet further and, fully 17 minutes after the clock hit 90, Mohammed Belaili notched the winner on the rebound after his initial penalty had been saved. It made for an incredible conclusion to a truly remarkable day of action and set a high bar for Saturday’s final act. …” FIFA (Video)
Morocco 2 (3) Algeria 2 (5)
“The last-four line-up at the FIFA Arab Cup is complete after Egypt and Algeria edged epic encounters to set up semi-finals against Tunisia and Qatar respectively. The North African duo emerged triumphant after two very different but equally thrilling matches, both of which ebbed and flowed before going into extra time and, in the later kick-off, beyond. Les Fennecs needed penalties to edge a titanic tussle with Morocco, while Egypt fell behind before battling back to dominate and, ultimately, overpower a valiant Jordan side. …” FIFA (Video) YouTube: Algeria vs Morocco 5-3 | Penalties Shootout – Arab Cup
“Only four top-flight clubs are in line to be unaffected by tournament that kicks off in Cameroon on 9 January. … Jürgen Klopp is not the only Premier League manager who will have Afcon on his mind over the coming weeks. With the delayed 33rd edition of the continental showpiece due to begin in Cameroon on 9 January, planning for the absence of up to 40 players from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Wilfried Zaha during one of the most intense periods of the domestic season will present a major headache for several. Much to the annoyance of Klopp and European club managers, the tournament was switched back to its usual mid-season slot after the 2019 Cup of Nations in Egypt was held for the first time during the European summer, because June and July are part of the rainy season in Cameroon. …” Guardian W – 2022 African Nations Championship YouTube: AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS 2022 DRAW RESULT
“The World Cup is a deceptively tricky tournament to predict. Even as it showcases the game’s greatest players on an international stage (with apologies to poor Christian Pulisic), the window to make a lasting impression is aggravatingly short: At most, a team will play seven games in the tournament. The majority of club leagues, meanwhile, play upward of 30 matches in a season—and that’s before considering concurrent cup competitions. The brief nature of the World Cup, in other words, is basically an international version of March Madness and all the swirling chaos that entails.” The Ringer
“Every soccer game is a story that opens up onto an infinite number of other stories. The World Cup is the ultimate concatenation of these stories, the greatest work of literature the sport has to offer. World Cup teams are perhaps the most visible embodiment of nations — collectives whose actions on the pitch can seem, in the moment, to determine the fate of a country. The biographies of particular players intermingle with that of the team, channeling and condensing our most vexed histories, those of nations and their unending quest to define themselves. Yet while many of us root for a particular nation in the World Cup, our fandom during the tournament is often an expression of a complex web of allegiances.” Vox – Laurent Dubois
“Try as they might, FIFA can’t keep politics out of the beautiful game. For football fans, players, and even officials, the events of the past few days have been a stark reminder of just how prominent politics are in this summer’s World Cup held in Russia. Last Friday, Egypt’s Mo Salah was photographed at a ceremonial banquet where he was granted ‘honourary citizenship’ by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. This comes just weeks after the publication of a photo featuring Salah and Kadyrov that resulted in criticism against the footballer, as Kadyrov faces accusations of outrageous human rights violations. It’s been rumored that Salah’s frustration with being the centre of political controversy has driven him to think about leaving the Egyptian national team.” Al Jazeera (Audio)
“… Egyptian, Muslim, and football fans: all came together on June 15 when Egypt played Uruguay in its first World Cup match in twenty-eight years. It was also the first day of Eid, the Muslim holiday that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. And it was also the birthday of a man called Mohamed Salah, whose incandescent talent propelled us to the tournament in Russia.” NYBooks
“Day 6 of World Cup 2018 is done, headlined by Russia’s 3-1 thrashing of Egypt, which gives the host nation six points and brings it to the cusp of a place in the knockout stage. The headliner was preceded by a pair of notable victories: Japan’s historic 2-1 win over Colombia (for reasons explained below), and Senegal’s 2-1 win over Poland, which was the first victory by an African team in the tournament. Every nation has now played at least once in Russia, where there has yet to be a scoreless draw, though there have been five own goals and a number of VAR interventions.” SI
“GROZNY, Russia — Ramzan A. Kadyrov did not sustain himself as the autocratic leader of the Chechen republic by failing to understand the value of propaganda and spectacle. So he was not to be deterred when Egypt’s national soccer team arrived here at its World Cup training camp on Sunday, and the whole squad showed up for an evening workout — except for the star forward Mohamed Salah. The bearded Mr. Kadyrov, 41, left the field in his turquoise and white track suit. Soon, he returned, this time making a grand entrance with Mr. Salah before about 8,000 fans, posing for photographers and television cameras, even grabbing the Liverpool star’s arm and raising it as if crowning a boxing champion.” NY Times