Sunday, 6 January 2013

The Myth Behind The African Cup Of Nations (Part One)

Would it be 'too hot' to hold the African Cup Of Nations in July?

The African Cup Of Nations.
Held in January for cooler
temperatures ... or is it?
With Cheick Tiote heading off to the African Cup Of Nations for the next few weeks, it reminded me of a moan I had a few years ago about the African Cup Of Nations being held in January.  In reply my mate argued that it has to be held in January because it would be too hot in Africa to hold it in the summer.

This is an argument I've also seen quoted on other websites, but what people are short-sightedly overlooking is that the rest of the world doesn’t share the same climate as England (lucky for them!).  Just because it’s summer in England doesn’t mean it’s summer everywhere else.

I’m going to point out the obvious here, but the vast majority of Africa is tropical and therefore doesn’t have traditional winter and summer seasons like we do in England.  Instead they have wet and dry seasons (and also monsoon and shoulder seasons in some areas).  And given that Africa is such a huge continent, you can’t really make a generalisation about the climate for the whole continent.  Each country and region has its own distinct climate with varying seasonal temperatures and rainfall fluctuations.

For example, the forthcoming 2013 African Cup Of Nations is being held in South Africa, located in the Southern hemisphere which means therefore that January falls right in the middle of the South African summer.  Straight away therefore the ‘too hot in July’ argument is looking a bit fragile so to investigate things further I decided to look up some figures...

The matches for the 2013 African Cup Of Nations are being staged in Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Nelspruit and Rustenburg.  The average temperatures* for these cities in January compared with July are as follows:

January July
Johannesburg 26 17
Durban 27 22
Port Elizabeth 25 19
Nelspruit 28 22
Rustenburg 29 19

* Average midday Celsius temperatures.  Figures obtained from

So as you can see, the concept of holding the African Cup Of Nations in January because it’s too hot in July doesn't hold true for the forthcoming tournament.

However, as already mentioned, the majority of Africa is tropical so admittedly there’s also the issue of wet and dry season to consider.  Perhaps therefore July is unsuitable for football due to increased rainfall and the potential for torrential rain?  Here are the rainfall statistics* for January versus July at the host cities for the forthcoming African Cup Of Nations…

January July
Johannesburg 113   0
Durban 104 14
Port Elizabeth   27 36
Nelspruit 116   3
Rustenburg 101   0

* Average mm of rainfall per month.

So as you can see, if the risk of torrential rain was a concern then once again July would be more suitable than January for staging the African Cup Of Nations.

However, as I stated earlier, Africa is a massive continent where every country and region has its own climate, so you can’t take the climate figures for one tournament as the basis for making a decision on every tournament.  So to investigate things further here are the average temperatures for Ghana and Equatorial Guinea who jointly hosted the 2012 African Cup Of Nations…

January July
Accra (capital of Ghana) 87  81*

In fact to quote from the website:
“The coolest time of year is between June and September…”

* Average temperature high in Fahrenheit as per

January July
Malabo (capital of Equatorial Guinea) 29.8  27.2*

* Average maximum temperature in Celsius as per

So once again the tournament would have experienced cooler temperatures if it had been played in July rather than January.

Let’s take a look at the 2010 African Cup of Nations which was hosted by Angola…

January July
Luanda (capital of Angola) 27  21*

* Average temperature in Celsius as per

Notice a pattern starting to develop?  And to round things off, the 2008 African Cup Of Nations was staged in Gabon…

January July
Libreville (capital of Gabon) 30  28*

* Average High Temperature as per

The myth of the African Cup Of Nations.  Each of the last
four tournaments would have been cooler if held in July.
Clearly then, based on the above figures you would have to say that the ‘too hot in July’ argument is factually inaccurate.  That’s if you were being polite.  If you were being more forthright then you might describe it as a load of b******s.

To state things plainly, of the last four African Cup Of Nations, all four of them would have experienced cooler temperatures if they had been staged in July instead of January.

Before I finish off I just want to clarify that I’m in no way saying the African Cup Of Nations doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t hold much significance to the majority of European football fans, but it’s a brilliant and important tournament for African people and players.

Back in 1996 and 1997 I was privileged enough to spend several months in East and Central Africa and at one point on my travels I was lucky enough to be in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, while a World Cup qualifying match was being played.  The atmosphere throughout the city in the build-up to the game is something which will stick with me forever and in particular I remember our tour truck driving around the city as all the passengers in the local vehicles were waving flags and were demonstrably filled with exuberance and excitement for the approaching match, as well as obvious pride for their country.  All in all it was an amazing atmosphere which even as a neutral I couldn’t help but be impressed by.  In fact the mood was so buzzing that you would have thought it was the build-up to a World Cup semi-final rather than just a qualifier.

Huge savings on top brand outdoor, sport and ski brands in our sale - Gear ZoneSo just to make things absolutely clear, football in Africa matters.  Football in Africa is important.  If you ever get the chance to experience a football match in Africa I can strongly recommend it.  As it happens, the match itself was an uneventful nil nil draw, but the atmosphere was something I will never forget.

So I’m not saying the African Cup Of Nations doesn’t matter.  I’m simply pointing out that the ‘too hot in July’ argument is untrue.  Anyone who argues this is either stupid or they’re deliberately taking advantage of the lack of climate expertise that most of us in Europe have when it comes to the various regions and countries of Africa.

So why then are the Confederation Of African Football (CAF) so reluctant to move the tournament to July?

I'll go over a few possible theories in a follow-up post tomorrow.

Update: Check out parts two and three of The Myth Behind The African Cup Of Nations at the following links:
The Myth Behind The African Cup Of Nations (Part Two) 

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