So good they named it thrice

AS someone who earns his living largely as a newspaper sub-editor, I’m discovering that the well-known African football tournament taking place in Ghana right now is causing a bit of confusion. Just what am I supposed to call it?

One of the newspapers I’m working for at the moment is adamant that it should be called the African Nations Cup. If any reporter refers to it differently in an article, it has to be changed, in the interests of consistency. But this could lead to confusion because that the acronym – ANC – is more commonly associated with the African National Congress, South Africa’s governing party.

And besides, ‘African Nations Cup’ is not the official name of the competition. For the past couple of years, I’ve been labouring under the impression that the competition was called the African Cup of Nations. A bit more long-winded, but accurate, at least. Except that it isn’t accurate any more.

It turns out that, between 2004 and 2006, the competition lost an ‘N’ from its title, and is now called the Africa Cup of Nations. The first time I saw this change of name, on the BBC’s website, I thought it was a typographical error.

Tunisia 2004Egypt 2006

But no. Look at the two official tournament logos above. There’s a clear change in the title.

So now we have a competition with three names, causing untold confusion. I feel the only solution is to give it a compromise name, the Africa(n) Nations Cup of Nations.

Picking a winner of the tournament is just about as tough as deciding what it’s called. Whenever I need a bit of a steer on African football, I speak to Jim Petruzzi, a Sydney-born, Manchester-based fitness instructor who was part of Angola’s coaching set-up at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Petruzzi, who has also worked with the Ivory Coast squad, is out in Ghana working as a fitness coach for individual players during the tournament.

“The profile of the tournament is rising all the time,” he said. “All the top African players from the Premier League have gone out for it, which tells you what a well-respected competition it is now. It’s catching up with the Copa America, and one day it might be as big as the European Championships.

“It’s a very strong line-up too. Everyone will know about Ivory Coast, Ghana and Angola from the last World Cup, but Cameroon and Nigeria didn’t qualify for Germany, and they will both be out to prove a point. Egypt won the Cup of Nations last time, and Tunisia are looking good as well.

“But I would say that Ivory Coast are the team to stop.”

It’s perhaps a sign of how strong the competition is that Togo – one of the four African teams at the last World Cup – failed to qualify for Ghana. The host nation have one of the most intriguing connections with English football, as they are coached by Claude Le Roy, who was briefly in charge at Cambridge United four years ago. (So briefly, in fact, that he never signed a contract with the club.)

I’m always a sucker for the no-hopers, though, so I’m going to be cheering on Benin. It’s only the second time they qualified for the Cup of Nations, and their star player is Accrington Stanley midfielder Romuald Boco. And while Ivory Coast are known as ‘The Elephants’ and Nigeria ‘The Super Eagles’, Benin are nicknamed ‘The Squirrels’.

They’ve got next to no chance of getting through a group that contains both Ivory Coast and Nigeria, but I will be supporting them all the way nonetheless – starting with their opening Group B game against Mali this evening. Come on you Squirrels!

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