Confederation of African Football (CAF) president, Patrice Motsepe has called the delayed 2022 African Nations championship (CHAN) the “best CHAN ever” even as debate rages on about the tournaments value.
Europe-based stars do not feature at CHAN, which means it is often seen as the poorer cousin of the Afcon. The CHAN was conceived by Caf and launched in 2009 to develop domestic leagues around the continent, with only home-based players allowed to compete.
The case for CHAN has also centred around it being a talent-spotting stage. This year, by the end of this edition more than 10 players had been signed by clubs outside their countries.
Morocco’s Nayef Aguerd, Achraf Dari and Jawad El Yamiq who were part of the Atlas Lions’ historic run to the semi-finals at the 2022 World Cup featured in their country’s back-to-back CHAN wins helping them secure moves to Europe.
Other noteable players that went on from CHAN to careers in Europe include Tottenham Hotspur’s Mali midfielder Yves Bissouma (Mali), Leicester City’s Patson Daka (Zambia), RB Salzburg’s Sekou Koita (Mali) and Braga’s Al Motasim Al-Musrati (Libya).
But some have wondered whether the tournament would be more effective with an age limit, in this respect. This year’s tournament had players as old as 36 taking part,
“It’s better to play CHAN with players not more than 23-years-old because there’s quality at that level and we don’t need players who are 33 years of age,” Tunisia legend Karim Haggui told BBC Sport Africa. Madagascar’s third place finish on their debut appearance with a mix of youngsters and older players was a positive for Caf.
CHAN hosting hasn’t always been the best in previous editions but the seventh edition hosted in Algeria, received positive reviews from fans and teams. The closing ceremony before the final had the pomp of an Afcon final itself.
Unsurprisingly, Caf president Motsepe was full of praise for the tournament.
“The quality of football on the field, the facilities, stadiums, pitches, VAR, hotels, transportation – it was the best,” he said at a press briefing.
Senegal beat Algeria on penalties to be crowned champions for the first time. The West Africans are the first country to hold titles in the two tiers of continental national senior championships at the same time – Africa cup of nations (Afcon) and CHAN.
The country hopes winning the tournament, reserved for those playing in their national domestic leagues can help revive its local football
The tournament began on a difficult note, with Morocco withdrawing and with the strong political comments of Nelson Mandela’s grandson at the opening ceremony threatening to overshadow the tournament.
But there was much to be enthused about in the three weeks of football that followed. The tournament provided good football particularly in the knock-out stages and VAR was used sparingly without controversy.
The tournament was expanded from 16 teams to 18 to allow each of the six African zones to have three qualifying slots. This new format came with its challenges. There were two groups of three teams, who only played two games at the group stage.
“It’s difficult to keep the momentum going for the team when you have a break of eight days between the matches,” said Mali coach Nouhoum Diame ahead of their defeat to Mauritania.
Mali’s defeat resulted in a group-stage exit and saw Diame losing his job.
Near-empty stadiums at games where the hosts were not playing have been a familiar and unwanted sight at the CHAN and at the Afcon over the years.
Using four venues in the North of the country, Algeria delivered huge, enthusiastic crowds in the cities of Constantine and Annaba, plus reasonable turnouts in Oran.
Record attendance was witnessed in the capital Algiers where the national team played all but one of their games.
There was a strong sense that Algerian football fans were eager to showcase their country, with hopes of hosting the 2025 Afcon.
Rachid Oukali, the president of the organising committee of the CHAN confirmed that the Algerian government continues to invest in sporting infrastructure and that a potential 2025 Afcon in the country would include two new stadiums that will be unveiled in the coming months.
“Algeria is a football-mad country and the supporters have been asking to host the 2025 AFCON, so I hope Algeria will get the tournament, ” Oukali told BBC Sport Africa.
Algeria, South Africa, Zambia and a joint bid from Benin-Nigeria are seeking to replace Guinea, who were stripped of hosting rights because of concerns over infrastructure and facilities.