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Following Premiership Players in the African Cup of Nations

I have to tell you all how unbelievably disappointed I am that this year’s 26th edition of the African Cup of Nations, set to kick off in Ghana on January 20, isn’t being televised on any major station here in the US (at least as far as I know, but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). This tournament has a history of exciting games and has developed a reputation of producing players that are amongst the best in the world now but really got their kickstart by playing at Africa’s championship.

The quality of players coming out of Africa is growing by leaps and bounds. Most of the major clubs across Europe have at least a couple of Africans on their roster, even some, like Arsenal’s Emmanuel Adebayor, that won’t be playing in this tournament because their respective nations didn’t qualify for the 16-team event. The host nation, Ghana, has players on its squad who ply their trade at the domestic level at Chelsea, Portsmouth, West Ham, Roma, Bayer Leverkusen, Fenerbahçe, Udinese, and Celta Vigo. My personal favorite to win the whole thng, Ivory Coast, boasts players from Stuttgart, Arsenal, Chelsea, Barcelona, Lyon, Sevilla, Werder Bremen, and others.

Many of the Premiership’s managers and others from other major European leagues, notably Arsene Wenger, are upset with the timing of this tournament. Players who are called up by their country will miss roughly a month of action with their clubs and managers don’t like to have to adjust. What they seem to not realize, however, is that Africa’s geographical position in the Southern Hemisphere puts this tournament in the summer for them, which is the same time that the World Cup and the European Championship are played.

The whole “country or club” debate is always called into question at times like this, but how you can realistically expect a player to reject a place on his country’s team? A chance to put on the colors of your nation is something that truly appeals to players. To represent your country and wear the colors with pride is something that’s so honest and special; it’s not about the money like it is with club soccer, it’s about the spirit of the game and love for the place you came from. I would pick country over club any day of the week if I was lucky enough to ever get the chance to be in that position.

Numerous Premiership players will compete in this tournament to one degree or another and I wanted to make it easier for fans out there to know who’s going and what nations they’ll want to support if they have players from their favorite club. The players mentioned below have either been named to their nation’s provisional squad or the actual tournament squad itself. Again, feel free to correct me if I went wrong somewhere.

Nations with Premiership players (club team):

Richard Kingson (Birmingham)
John Paintsil (West Ham)
Sulley Muntari (Portsmouth)
Michael Essien (Chelsea)





Ivory Coast:
Emmanuel Eboué (Arsenal)
Abdoulaye Méïté (Bolton)
Kolo Touré (Arsenal)
Emerse Faé (Reading)
Didier Zokora (Tottenham)
Didier Drogba (Chelsea)
Salomon Kalou (Chelsea)

Mohamed Sissoko (Liverpool)

Joseph Yobo (Everton)
Dickson Etuhu (Sunderland)
John Obi Mikel (Chelsea)
John Utaka (Portsmouth)
Yakubu (Everton)
Obafemi Martins (Newcastle)
Nwankwo Kanu (Portsmouth)

André Bikey (Reading)
Geremi (Newcastle)
Alexandre Song (Arsenal)

Mohamed Shawky (Middlesbrough)



Manucho Goncalves (Manchester United)

Habib Bèye (Newcastle)
Ibrahima Sonko (Reading)
Papa Bouba Diop (Portsmouth)
Diomansy Kamara (Fulham)
El Hadji Diouf (Bolton)
Henri Camara (West Ham)

South Africa:
Steven Pienaar (Everton)

Aaron Mokoena (Blackburn)

Radhi Jaïdi (Birmingham)
Medhi Nafti (Birmingham)

Editor’s Note: At the time of publication Mohamed Sissoko still played for Liverpool, although his transfer to Juventus should be finalized within the coming days.

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  1. yoly

    February 4, 2008 at 2:21 am

    what about e’too

  2. John

    January 20, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    hey everyone you can watch the African Cup of Nations online at, its in french from a Senegal based Channel but its very watchable quality

  3. ade

    January 14, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    It is really bad and dissapointing that the 26th CAN will not be shown in the USA. Please if anyone found any channel please mail me.

  4. nicholas b. sherman

    January 14, 2008 at 10:54 am

    I love football and my liberia has produe one of the world best player that is George Weah.but we have gone no where in football i am holping that liberia will take part the next coming african cup of nation

  5. Daryl

    January 11, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    TELESUD are also going to be showing every game live online (in the US and Canada) at

    No word on a price yet, but I got a verbal confirmation on the phone that it’s definitely going ahead.

  6. Hudsonland

    January 11, 2008 at 10:40 am

    It’s supposed to be available in the US via DishNetwork on the Francophone African channel 3A Telesud. I’m going to call them next week to see if I can add it for just a month ($15) or whether a longer-term commitment is required (in which case, stuff it).

  7. Kartik

    January 11, 2008 at 10:11 am

    Wow this list shows both the good and bad about the PL and the MLS. The American domestic first division only has one player going to the African Nations Cup which is down from the number of African players the league had going to the 1998 World Cup. But this list also shows the extent to which foreign influence in the Premier League has hijacked the “Britishishness” of the clubs and the teams. While this maybe good for the entertainment level of the football it’s not good for England, or Wales and is certainly in my mind not good for football as a whole. My fears about the MLS increasing its foreign player limit from 4 to 8 has already been realized as every MLS club seems to be spending this January transfer window buying Latin players I’ve never heard of (and I have heard of most of the good ones). These clubs all seem to be in a race to fill their squads with as many latin sounding names, so they claim they have gotten “top” international players.

  8. The Scout

    January 11, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Great article ! It seems even Nigerians might not be able to watch the matches.

  9. Dan

    January 11, 2008 at 8:48 am

    Yeah, I’d definitely like to watch a game or two from this tournament… the African teams are always a breath of fresh air in the World Cup with their fearless attacking style…. can you imagine a whole tournament of these teams??!?!

    You’ve also made me recall an article I read in one paper or another back in the UK when Wenger was getting all bent out of shape about losing Kanu to this tournament. The writer poked fun at Wenger saying that Kanu had “come over all Nigerian” as if Wenger didn’t know this was going to happen. Simple fact; if you buy a decent African footballer then you’re likely to lose him for a month every two years. If you don’t like that, don’t buy them. Simple.

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