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banner Friday, 23 February, 2001, 19:06 GMT
Thinking small brings big rewards

By MARK GLEESON

Spreading the gospel of the game across the Africa might seem a little pointless on a continent where almost everyone is in love with the round-ball game.

But this week's under-17 championship in the Seychelles and future plans to take similar tournaments to other exotic locations is something that needs to be applauded.

It is not often we get an opportunity to throw bouquets rather than brickbats at soccer officials but Caf have certainly got it right in ensuring the smaller countries in Africa also get to experience the excitement of tournament competition.

Swaziland are the next country to host the under-17 championship in 2003 and there is already a buzz in the kingdom about the upcoming tournament.

I was there a fortnight ago and already the local football association are beginning to put organisational teams together.

Major fillip

Mauritius, Guinea, Mali, Ethiopia, Botswana are all some of the countries which have, or are about to, host a junior continental championship.


It takes a carrot like being awarded a Caf event to get the treasury to open the purse strings
  Mark Gleeson
It is a major fillip for these nations, not only in terms of profile but also all the infrastructural upgrades that are required.

The Seychelles, for example, re-laid two pitches and this might not have happened on the island had they not been appointed hosts of the under-17 championship.

Government support, these days, does not come easy and it takes a carrot like being awarded the hosting of a Caf event to get the treasury to open the purse strings.

Taking that point further, the African Nations Cup finals also does much in terms of leaving a physical legacy dotted around the continent.


Take the Omnisport stadium in Bobo-Dioulasso for example, specially built for the 1998 Nations Cup finals, and all the new infrastructure that is being promised in Mali next year.

Converted

It would be a tragedy if we saw all the Caf tournaments rotate between the more established countries on the continent, just because conditions are better for all involved.

Burkina Faso had many sceptical visitors initially, almost all converted into great enthusiasts after the stalwart effort by the land of the upright people.

In a sense that is why it is a little disappointing that the 2004 Nations Cup finals go back to Tunisia, who have hosted it twice before.

Zambia and Malawi, as well as Zimbabwe, were also bidding and had the necessary guarantees.

They should really have been given a chance to show what they could do - and at the same time build better facilities for their footballing communities to use after the finals are finished.

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16 Feb 01 |  Africa
Caf is too soft on bad boys
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