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Last Updated: Friday, 18 January 2008, 16:37 GMT
Africa Cup of Nations: Readers' accounts
Picture sent by Kelly Jones Kaila. Celebration of World AIDS day with Right to Play

One of the biggest events in Africa, the 2008 Nations Cup, kicks off this weekend in Ghana.

Our readers from different parts of the continent give us a flavour of what football means in their own countries and how they are going to follow their national team in the competition.

ARISTO NII ARYEE, GHANA

Aristo Nii Aryee
Name: Aristo Nii Aryee
Town: Accra
Age: 43
Job: Financial Analyst

This is one tournament I cannot afford to miss, though I have always watched it on TV and I hope to go and watch South Africa in 2010.

Radio and TV programmes are packed with images of the Africa Cup of Nations, rather than the hither-to, ever-tense political programmes.

Prior to Germany 2006, there was a strong political division in the country which created a lot of political and ethnic tensions, but that was buried during the World Cup and people from the different political divide came together to cheer for our national team, the Black Stars.

Football is now having the same effect in Bawku, in the Upper-east region of Ghana, where an ethnic conflict erupted on Christmas day, which led to the destruction of lives and properties.

Though there is a curfew still in place there, the euphoria of Ghana 2008 has calmed down tempers and people of the various factions can now be seen openly discussing football and displaying jerseys and flags in national colours.

During major football events, all sorts of people join in to have a feel of the excitement, the anguish, the disappointment and the celebrations.

Anybody can join, it doesn't matter if you have HIV/AIDS, if you are poor or rich, Christian or Moslem, male or female educated or uneducated, employed or unemployed.

So you see, football events brings at least temporary relieve from our difficulties and we just have fun. And as of now journalists, reporters and fans from almost all African countries are in Ghana to cover the tournament, they will know Ghanaians better and Ghanaians will also know them better.

MAGED ALI HASSAN, EGYPT

Maged Ali Hassan
Name: Maged Ali Hassan
Town: Cairo
Age: 27
Job: Business owner

I think that the Africa Cup of Nations unites a lot of people. When I see an African walking by me in the streets of Cairo, sometimes I ask them what team do they support and they tell me (Sudan, Ivory Coast...) and then we just start to argue a little bit, and then laugh and stuff.

I do feel more like an African than an Egyptian, because the whole world is watching the Games, and they are watching all teams, not just Egypt.

The way in which these countries perform in the tournament attracts the world and makes them see that we have talent and skill. Each team is unique in its own way.

I'm planning to watch the tournament with my friends at home during the Egypt games.

I might watch the other teams in coffee shops or at work, where I subscribed to a TV channel just to watch the games. Sadly enough, I won't be travelling because I cannot leave work in Cairo during this time. But I did go to all games back in 2006 in Egypt.

Egypt is a Muslim country. A lot of people think that if you want something so hard, you should pray for it so that God would make it true for you. For me, when I pray I usually ask God to make Ahly, Cairo's football club, victorious during the big games. Because when Ahly wins, all Egypt is happy and the poor people of Egypt have something to celebrate about. They actually have a smile on their face, even during difficult times.

Egypt has failed to qualify for the World Cup since Italy 1990, when I was only 10 years old and had the privilege to attend all Egypt games But in the other World Cups I was cheering for all the other African countries as if Egypt was playing, I could not describe how happy I was for Senegal to go to the final rounds. I felt as if Egypt was playing.

These African teams should really think about all Africa and not only their country when they play in the World Cup. I get jealous from all the African teams that qualify because I am sure just by playing in the world build national pride.

LEILA KIGHA, CAMEROON

Leila Kigha
Name: Leila Kigha
Town: Douala
Age: 26
Job: Journalist

Football to me is an issue I have come to love and appreciate through time. Not because of the game in itself as such, but because of the impact it has on humanity in general.

Football to a Cameroonian is like food to a hungry man. Cameroonians love football and they will do anything to watch a match of football. It is our source of pride.

It can, to an extent, unite divided countries, because players are chosen from different regions. Too many people are tribalistic by nature and for the sake of their brother or son playing in the national team, for example, they can be willing to compromise to see to it that the team wins.

It also helps people forget what they are going through. To an average Cameroonian this period is so exciting and many of them talk less of poverty and politics nowadays, it is football!

Unfortunately, because of work I will not be able to travel to Ghana to watch the games, I would have loved to! So I am going to watch it on TV with my family, colleagues or friends, depending on where I find myself at time of play.

Football and sports in general should be exploited by our leaders to seek peace and solutions to conflicts in our continent. A happy man can sit at table to dialogue and negotiate the future. Let's not waste this opportunity.

ETEOBONG ISAAC AKPAN, NIGERIA

Eteobong
Name: Eteobong Isaac Akpan
Town: Calabar, Cross River State
Age: 22
Job: Computer instructor

I am planning to watch the Africa Cup of Nations through a satellite station, because I am not sure if the Nigerian Television Authority will broadcast the tournament live.

Furthermore, if there is any power failure, I will have no other alternative than to watch it through one of the football cinemas here in Calabar.

I value the Africa Cup of Nations after my Holy Bible, because its where Africa's most talented players come together to represent their nations. My friends are feeling the same way.

Football can unite a country because it is a game of unity. When there is a game, it brings different people from all parts of my country to sit down.

Football has helped my country by providing daily bread on the tables of African footballers who are plying their trade in and outside the country, through their wages, bonuses and salaries.

And football helps people like myself to forget about my sorrow and difficulties, at least for 90 minutes.

KELLY JONES KAILA, ZAMBIA

Kelly Jones Kaila (left), with his friends Kasumba and Malanga
Name: Kelly Jones Kaila
Town: Lusaka
Age: 23
Job: Journalist and manager of Kalim Sports Council

Football to me is a tool that cannot be limited. I organise children's football leagues and tournaments. It makes me happy when I see children playing football, and I'm always happy.

I have also seen the power of football in the refugee camps in Mayukwayukwa and Nagwesh. The people from these two camps don't get along, but the since we introduced football, they are now good allies.

I'm really planning to go in South Africa for the World Cup in 2010. I can't wait for that day. I will try to go to at least three games or all of the matches, why not. I don't what to be told about what happened in this very important event, I want to witness it.

I don't know how I can express how important it is. It is important because it makes people forget their problems because it is full of happiness and laughter.

WILKINS O. MULEMI, KENYA

Kenya will not be taking part on this Africa Cup of Nations, but Wilkins Mulemi tells us how Kenyans will be following the tournament.

I surely know football will bring some semblance of calm and peace in this country
Name: Wilkins O Mulemi
Town: Nairobi
Age: 34
Job: Insurance

I really feel that our Africa Cup of Nations will make us forget the madness that our politicians have created in Kenya. There will be some sense of brotherhood and everyone will be cheering the same team. As for national pride, well, I'm not sure there is pride in being downtrodden politically, but we still are Kenyans in unity.

During the Africa Cup of Nations we are always united. You can only feel a division on games like, for example, Egypt vs Cameroon.

In those cases you will notice sub-Sahara Africa will tend to follow the latter, while the North Africans will support the former. But, in essence, we all are proud to be African.

A new pay TV channel is in town and it has broken the monopolistic tendencies of one channel. Now we may get some big screens in the streets and we will be cheering and watching without necessarily having to go to a pub or restaurant to buy some overpriced drink in order to sit and watch our favourite team.

I think football is overhyped in Europe, because it is heavily commercialised. In Africa people play football because they enjoy playing and cheering for their favourite teams. Players play it with the hope of going to Europe and earning a professional stint to get out of poverty.

I surely know football will bring some semblance of calm and peace in this country. I wish we could also vie to host a major continental or world soccer tournament.


Are you in Africa? What do you think about the Africa Cup of Nations? What is your reaction to the contributors above?

The football tournament in Ghana brings together not only the nationals of the 16 qualified teams but nationals of other sister African countries. This is something most past African leaders tried to do in vein. Past experiences indicate that Africans have never gathered in their numbers like they gather during big sporting events. This really shows that sport in this continent is a force that pulls opposing sides together. If our past African leaders had used sports as a tool of uniting us, Africa would have become more united. Long live African Sports (soccer), long live Africa.
Dunkwa Jabpotin, Nakpanduri, Ghana

The 2008 African Cup of Nations will bring good to Ghana and Africa. Africa, despite all its wars and famines, needs to have a tournament to unite them. The African Cup unites them. Personally, I want a small and impoverished African country to win so they could qualify for the 2009 Confederations Cup. I pray for Africa and her peoples and cultures. From the sands of Morocco to the jungles of Congo. From Cairo to the Cape.
Walter Manning, West Palm Beach, Florida, USA

I wish that Africans were as passionate about their freedom and prosperity as they are about soccer.
Amar Khelifi, Garner, USA



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