It used to be for Africa and enjoyed solely by Africans. But the African Cup of Nations has surpassed the continents interests as it has become a major fixture in the dairy’s of the world.
Real passion is what defines the African game. And the focus of the rest of the world would be on Ghana, hosts of the 2008 African Cup of Nations to witness what differentiates the game from others when they tournament gets underway on Sunday.
Africa’s flagship sporting event which is played every two years around this time of the year assembles the continents best talents and these are players who influence the world game.
The sole aim of the large gathering is to vie for the coveted title which was last won by Egypt when they hosted the 2006 tournament.
There are however, no clear favourites at Ghana 2008, making it difficult for analyst and the bookmakers to say something specific.
Within the mix at the 26th edition of the competition are three different sets of contenders to the title.
Established guns like Ghana, Egypt, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Nigeria are always favoured to win the competition.
It would be an error to suggest that any of the teams above would clinch the title after the three-week period.
And in between, there is Morocco, Senegal, Zambia, South Africa and Tunisia, all credible challengers.
The other set of teams who have seen their profiles enhanced in recent times are Angola, Guinea, Mali, Benin, Sudan and Namibia. Maybe, the party spoilers for now would do.
Certainly, it promises to be an exciting and fiercely contested competition with any team a threat to everyone.
The stars have flooded Ghana and their coaches are under the spotlight to deliver winning teams.
Records would be broken and records made. But the journey to the February 10 final does not look easy as tens of thousands of supporters who have arrived keep track of the progress of their teams from the blast of the whistle.
And there’s the local hopes of Ghana’s fans dreaming of a title success just like previous host, Tunisia and Egypt achieved in 2004 and 2006.
There’s another angle to the dreams of the Ghanaian fan expecting the Black Stars to be crowned champions. Ghana have won the competition twice on home soil and are looking to make it a third.
Before that dream comes to fruition, Ghana and Guinea would line up for Sunday’s opening match which kicks off the 2008 tournament at the Ohene Djan Stadium in Accra, the Ghanaian capital, one of the four match venues made available for the competition.
Despite calls by Europe and now FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, for changes o be made over the timing of the competition, the African Cup of Nations with worldwide television coverage promises to be an eventful footballing piece put together by Africa and which would be enjoyed by all.
With the big kick-off now just hours away, the time for the talking has stopped as the action begins.