Africa’s biggest national football competition, the Africa Cup of Nations, or AFCON, gets underway in Gabon on Saturday as the hosts meet Guinea-Bissau at 5pm local time in the capital, Libreville.
This is the 31st edition of the tournament that happens every two years and Ivory Coast will be defending the title they won two years ago in Equatorial Guinea.
Players seen regularly in the English Premier League will be representing their countries at AFCON. Liverpool striker Sadio Mané will be playing for the Teranga Lions of Senegal, the Desert Foxes of Algeria are pinning their hopes on influential Leicester City winger Riyad Mahrez and Crystal Palace winger Wilfrid Zaha is looking to make an impact for The Elephants of the Ivory Coast.
Political activists in Gabon protesting at the outcome of last August’s presidential election have called for local fans to boycott the AFCON but in a country where football is followed passionately the call is likely to receive little support.
All things to all men
The Apostle Paul’s well-known words to the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 9, 19-23 tell us how he became “all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” Later in the same epistle he encourages his readers to “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor 11;1).
Passion for Sport will be bringing news, stories and interviews from AFCON to sports fans in Africa through our weekly radio programme Planet Sport Football Africa and social media. We come alongside listeners to inform and share their passion for football. This provides opportunities to share, for example, testimonies of footballers who are both passionate about their sport and committed in their faith as followers of Jesus Christ. Through social media we build relationships and look for opportunities to introduce Jesus to our conversations. Jesus talked to people from an agricultural community about a farmer sowing his seed. He called the fishermen Peter and Andrew saying he would make them “fishers of men”. At Passion for Sport we seek to be imitators of Christ as we follow his example and speak to sports fans in a language they can understand.
We conducted a poll among Planet Sport Football Africa listeners to find out which team they thought would win AFCON 2017. Here are the top four predictions:
Senegal (Teranga Lions), 43% of the vote
Ghana (Black Stars), 16%
Algeria (Desert Foxes), 14%
Ivory Coast (The Elephants), 11%
The tournament runs for three weeks from 14 January with the final in Libreville on 5 February.
By Adrian Barnard