The 34th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations promised to be a spectacle, with CAF and the Ivorian authorities vowing it would be the best AFCON of all time.
The first two days seemed to live up to the expectations.
The tournament’s captivating opening ceremony, four thrilling matches – including Ghana’s surprising defeat and Nigeria’s thrilling draw – and several stunning goals earned applause from far and wide.
However, day three unveiled a different narrative.
The spotlight turned to the clash between defending champions Senegal and Gambia at the Stade Charles Konan Banny, where ominous signs surfaced even before the kickoff.
Moments before the game began, the stadium’s audio system glitches disrupted the anthems of Senegal and Gambia, a prelude to the chaos that awaited.
The poetic verses of Senegal’s “The Red Lion” and the patriotic anthem “For Gambia, Our Homeland” crackled into silence, foreshadowing the impending debacle.
Pape Gueye’s early goal in the 4th minute provided a momentary high for the Senegalese, only to plunge into disaster around the half-hour mark.
As Senegal dominated 1-0 against Gambia, the unthinkable happened – the match vanished from every television screen worldwide.
A torturous 15-minute blackout left fans frustrated and bewildered, a gaping hole in the viewing experience.
The embarrassment reverberated across all broadcast channels. On Nouvelle chaine ivoirienne (NCI), the banner spelled out the disruption, while Beln Sports in France cited “technical problems.”
It was an agonising spectacle for football enthusiasts and an indelible stain on the credibility of the prestigious tournament.
The blame, it seems, falls squarely on the shoulders of the much-touted “historic media rights agreement” between CAF and New World TV, a fledgling Togolese audio-visual group.
Despite lofty claims, the incident laid bare the consequences of entrusting the broadcasting rights to a company with limited audience reach and less than a decade of existence.
Questions loom large over CAF’s decision-making, particularly in light of the fears expressed when the agreement was inked in December 2023.
Trusting a company in its infancy to handle a tournament of this magnitude now seems more reckless than visionary.
African football finds itself in the crossfire of ridicule, demanding answers from CAF and its dubious broadcast ally.
This incident cannot be brushed aside. It is not merely a technical glitch; it is a blemish on the essence of AFCON.
As Senegal eventually triumphed 3-0 over Gambia, the victory was overshadowed by the glaring failure of the very spectacle meant to celebrate the beauty of African football.
The world watched as chaos eclipsed the AFCON, leaving a lingering question mark on the credibility of those entrusted to safeguard the soul of the beautiful game on the continent.