The African Nations Championship (or CHAN) is unique amongst international football tournaments in that nations are restricted to selecting only domestic players in their squads. The 2011 edition of this tournament begins this week in Sudan with the hosts taking on Gabon in Khartoum.
As the competition only allows the selection of domestically based players the standards of each respective international side is a little different to “full internationals”. I’ve built up a table below showing each competing nation’s African ranking (by FIFA World Rankings) plus the current CAF 5 Year Ranking (used to rank sides in CAF Champions League draws), it makes for interesting reading.
As you can see there’s very little correlation between the relative strengths of the leagues and international sides. How these rankings will translate into performances of national teams is anyone’s guess. Many national sides competing in the CHAN have had issues with players leaving domestic leagues and becoming ineligible so examining the relative strengths of squads is very difficult.
Winners of the previous CHAN competition in 2009 DR Congo have been poor in international football over the past couple of years, yet the national league is thriving with TP Mazembe winning consecutive African Champions League titles. Eleven of the Mazembe squad that starred in the recent World Club Championships are included in DR Congo’s final squad along with many players from the AS Vita Club side who are the reigning DR Congo champions. To put DR Congo’s victory into some sort of context they are ranked 32 in CAF, the same position that Romania hold in UEFA.
Familiar names to British football fans are hard to come by. Bobby Williamson will lead the Cranes of Uganda into another tournament aiming to repeat their semi-final success in last month’s East African CECAFA tournament. Intriguingly the coach of Zimbabwe is Madinda Ndlovu, a name that will bring back memories of early days Premier League football as his brother Peter played for Coventry City over 150 times and played for over 10 years for various clubs in the English football pyramid.
Cynics may view the competition as an easy place for European scouts to pick up the best of African domestic talent. However very few players who played during the 2009 CHAN found moves into Europe. Congolese striker Serge Bongeli had a spell late last year with FC Brussels in Belguim, whilst Zambian Jonas Sakuwaha had a spell with Lorient and Le Havre in France. Ivorian defender Elysée Irié Bi Séhi is currently playing second flight football in Russia, and his international team-mate Antoine N’Gossan earned himself a move to Charlton Athletic before being loaned back to the Ivory Coast with ASEC (via a short spell at Belgian club Waregem). Perhaps the only player to make any sort of significant impact in Europe is Tanzanain Henry Shindika who is currently a regular in Norweigian side Kongsgiver’s midfield.