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Respect Afcon teams

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FRANCIVILLE I get a little irked every time I see a Tweet from a football fan complaining about how Cameroon, Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa arent in the African Cup of Nations 2012.

I know these are continental football power houses and Im the first person to say I would watch a Cameroon or Nigeria game any day, any time, but every country had equal opportunity to qualify.

Botswana was in a group with Tunisia, Togo, Malawi and Chad and managed to qualify with two games to spare.

Guinea had to face Nigeria and Ethiopia and still qualified top of their group, three points ahead of Nigeria.

Who can Nigeria blame for losing to Senegal in one game and drawing with them in the other? In fact they drew with Democratic Republic of Congo as well.

Egypt, who arent only the defending champions, but who won it in Angola in 2010, Ghana in 2008 and Egypt in 2006, were a disaster in qualifying. Their coach was building a new team, which is understandable, but it saw them finish bottom of their group, allowing Niger to shine.

Although in reality Niger have South Africa to thank for their qualification, following that mathematical farce on the final day of qualifications. Besides, South Africa werent in Angola in 2010 and Im not sure anyone missed them.

I wouldnt have wanted these powerhouses in the tournament just to have them, but I would have wanted them in the competition because they were playing the best football.

The fact that they didnt qualify shows that they werent playing their best football and probably wouldnt have done well at Afcon 2012.

I have watched more than 80% of all games played so far in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea and Im loving it. I expected teams like Equatorial Guinea, Sudan and Niger to really suffer, but its not happening.

Well, Nigers match with Gabon was more or less a one-sided affair, but Sudan put up a great fight against Ivory Coast while hosts Equatorial Guinea saw off Libya, another team that legitimately qualified as one of the second bests. As hosts, Equatorial Guinea didnt have to qualify, but they did not look out of place at all on Saturday.

Gabon too didnt have to qualify as co-hosts; but I was so impressed with their level of football. Their opening goal, scored by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, was pure magic.

The angle of the header was obscure and many a great striker would have missed it. It was pure class and thats why I want to plead with you Africa to respect the teams and the players that ARE in the tournament and forget, for a few weeks, the teams that ARENT.

Apart from the two hosts, both of whom have won their opening games, every other team went through tough group qualifiers. The so-called football giants participated in those qualifiers and failed to qualify. Its that simple.

I also realise most of the people complaining havent actually been watching the games because the big guns arent there. I want to urge you now to take time to enjoy what is going on in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. The quality of football has generally been impressive and very entertaining.

Ivory Coast is one of the favourites because, along with Ghana and probably Morocco and Tunisia in another life-time, theyre probably the only traditional football powerhouse in the tournament.

Their performance against Sudan wasnt special. Im sure theyll get better as the tournament progresses but, as of now, Zambias performance has probably been the most entertaining. Angola too were impressive and they arent a powerhouse either.

Some of the other smaller teams have emerging stars as well and you will see them throughout the three-week tournament.

To my fellow Kenyans, I reach out to you most to respect the teams that are there and gauge how far our dear Harambee Stars need to go in order to qualify for the 2013 Afcon.

To the rest of Africa, if your country isnt represented, pick a team to support. It always makes the games more fun.

Most of all, give the participants the respect they have earned.

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