IN Nigeria, the game of football is the most unifying factor in a country where dissensions are rife based on ethnicity and religion. Whenever the country is participating in any regional or world football championships, most Nigerians are usually on their tenterhooks as they momentarily forget their political, socio-economic, cultural or religious differences. Whenever the nation’s favourite team, the Super Eagles are playing, Nigerians, irrespective of the political and religious inclination fervently pray for the team to succeed. If the team loses, the nation is united in mourning the loss. And if it wins, the nation rejoices. From January 19 to February 10, most Nigerians will be glued to their television sets anytime the Super Eagles will be playing in the African Cup of Nations. Most people will be watching with baited breath this year’s tournament, especially after the Super Eagles failed to qualify to participate in the last edition.
Unfortunately, the Super Eagles, because of their lackluster performances in the recent past, are going to the competition not as the one of those favoured to win but as a dark horse. The favoured teams are the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire and the Chipololo of Zambia, the defending champions. The Black Stars of Ghana and Bafana, Bafana of South Africa, the host nation are also bookmakers favourites.No doubt, 16 teams from different countries in Africa will parade stars, who will scintillate football fans with their talents and skills. This is why we have chosen to help you understand the full dynamics at play and which teams are most favoured to clinch the revered trophy in our first cover story for the year entitled: Stars at War. The stylish and very analytical prose was written by Olu Ojewale, one of our tried and tested hands and the in-house football analyst. A companion piece on the The Stars to Watch was compiled by Anayo Ezugwu along with the match fixtures. Enjoy it.
— Jan. 21, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT