At The Offside Rule Podcast, we’ll be previewing the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations tournament every day this week, right here on our website.
Today we speak to former Premier League footballer Radhi Jaidi about his own experiences of the tournament, including winning it himself in his home country back in 2004, the excitement surrounding the tournament and Tunisia’s relative fall from grace.
You won the AFCON back in 2004 in your own country. That must have been an incredible feeling given the nation had never won it before?
RJ: That was an unforgettable moment for every Tunisian. I was proud to be part of such an achievement; people still stop me in the road when I’m home to speak about it!
The mid-00s seemed to be the start of a shift of power in African football. Teams like Tunisia and indeed Morocco, who you played in the final, have been replaced by the likes of Ghana and Ivory Coast. Why do you think this is?
RJ: Every period has its own truth. For Tunisia, the shift is due to alack of consistency in all aspects! The players’ performances, changes of the manager, change of the Tunisian FA delegation and bigger than anything is there’s no long term planning to develop quality players who can compete at the highest level. It’s the case of many countries in Africa…
The Tunisian league lost its spirit in the last few years due to many reasons, one of them is political problems and the insecurity in the country in certain moments and places.
Hopefully now with the new government, the sector of sport generally will bounce back and rise to more success.
Recent champions such as Nigeria and Egypt haven’t even qualified in 2015, does this show nations are slacking or African football on the whole is getting stronger?
RJ: Yes, these examples confirm what I’ve been saying. There’s always a gap between generations in football, the clever countries are the ones who make that gap smaller and avoid the tough periods.
Egypt has been subject to several political problems and some insecurity issues.
In the UK and Europe as a whole, we get very excited over the European Championships, what’s the general reaction and build-up like to the AFCON in Africa?
RJ: I believe it’s the same, the challenge and the excitement is there and everyone prepares for the event in different ways.
The only issue for some countries is the timing of the AFCON and the commitment of their players to their team in Europe.
African footballers do seem to be making a big name for themselves in Europe recently, especially in England with the likes of Yaya Toure, Didier Drogba and co. Can African football go from strength to strength and have nations making a serious challenge for World Cups?
RJ: It looks not far away until that happens, when you see these quality players that Africa provide to the world of football. But the reality is different, we need to reinforce the infrastructure and demands of football in certain countries to give the future youngsters the chance to do it.
How did you find it when settling into the Premier League given you moved straight from African football?
RJ: I didn’t spend much time settling into the country despite the different mentality and different atmosphere. I managed to adapt myself to it, the only hard bit was maybe the weather! It’s five degrees sometimes in the summer whereas in Tunisia it can be forty five degrees! It was a little challenge but I took it positively.
Finally, stick your neck on the line, tournament winner?
RJ: Of course it could be Tunisia if they take it game by game, especially with the absence of teams like Egypt and Nigeria.
But still you have to look at the likes of Ghana, Ivory Coast and Algeria as favourites.
You can follow Radhi on Twitter @radhijaidioff
View our other AFCON 2015 previews right here!