Ahead of the two semifinal matches coming up on Wednesday and Thursday nights, the third place play-off match on Saturday and the grand finale on Sunday night, I sat back and reflected on key things.
The first thought that crossed my mind was the intense preparatory mechanism that host country Gabon undertook to stage such a championship.
From the state of art facilities (match day venues and training grounds), social amenities, communication, organization at the media tribune, media centers, press conferences, level and quality of refereeing, transport for teams, media, LOC medias, work of volunteers and the other logistics, I saluted the hosts.
Then came the gist of my subject matter today – the quality of competition exhibited by all the 16 finalists at this 31st edition in Gabon.
Now that the group stage and quarter final levels are done and dusted, the men have been surely separated from the boys.
These four teams shall remain until the final day on Sunday and will smile to the bank handsomely.
The winner will pocket $4M, the first runners up ($2M) as the third and fourth placed teams will each earn $ 1.5M.
The four quarter finalists are assured of $800,000 each, the 3rd placed teams in the group $575,000 and the 4th in the group including Uganda will each earn $475,000 to amass a sum of $16,400,000, the total prize money at AFCON 2017.
7 time record winners Egypt, 4 time champions Ghana and another winner on 4 counts – Cameroon are joined by an outsider Burkina Faso, who have never won the tournament since inception.
Burkina Faso’s closest moment was in 2013 when they lost in the finals to Nigeria 1-0.
All the remaining teams are eager for the best showing at the AFCON 2017 finals with nothing less regarded as success but returning home with the trophy.
Personally, I have been impressed by the number of fans I saw in the stands after the quarter finals.
I thought and realized with the host team out in the group stages, it would discourage many.
Football remains a powerful tool, full of entertainment and magnetic appeal.
Fans have not disappointed neither and I bet, they will keep attending the matches till the final.
Favourites at this year’s tournament as Algeria, Senegal and the host country Gabon were shown the exit door earlier on.
The biggest question that lingers on lips of many fans here in Gabon, across Africa and the rest of the world, is one – Who will win this trophy christened as the Abdelaziz Abdallaj Salem trophy, named after the first CAF president?
Your guess is as good as mine.