AFCON Preview: Shaun Bartlett Q&A

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 Shaun Bartlett about his own experiences of the tournament, including winning it himself in his home country back in 1996 and the improvement of African football as a whole.

It didn’t take you long to make your mark in the AFCON back in 1996, helping South Africa to win the tournament. Describe the experience of winning the tournament?

SB: 1996 was an absolute blessing as the start of a professional career as far as the national team were concerned. Once I got my chance in the semi-final, I decided to take it with both hands and not let my place be up for grabs to anyone.

The nations from that tournament compared to 2015 haven’t changed much but the power does seem to have shifted slightly. Why have teams like South Africa, Senegal and Tunisia suffered in recent years?

SB: I do believe the so called smaller countries have improved dramatically and the power houses of African football has suffered because most of its better players have lost interest and desire to perform on the African stage. Could be because of the fact that they ply their trade now in bigger and better leagues around the world.

Vice versa, nations like Ivory Coast, Algeria and Ghana have thrived in the last decade or so, any reason for this or is it just a general shift in power within the continent?

SB: I strongly believe there is a season for everything and football is no different. These teams have progressively improved or maintained their dominance purely because of the production line of young players coming through the ranks. Tactically becoming far superior than most of the other teams on the continent.

Embed from Getty Images

Obviously, in the UK we know all about the excitement regarding our very own European Championships, what’s the general reaction like to the AFCON on the continent?

SB: The AFCON is without a doubt still the competition to win for any African country. It has also become a tournament where unknown players get discovered and get better contracts, with European clubs chasing their signatures. Individually and collectively, teams do benefit from winning the AFCON tournaments with many getting great financial rewards.

You played in a tournament with legends like Kalusha Bwalya, Abedi Pele, Tony Yeboah etc, who was the toughest player you came up against in African football?

SB: It will always be a very difficult job to say which African legend was the toughest opponent as each had their own individual quality and ability that made it very tough for their opponents on the day.

African footballers seem to be making a big name for themselves now, especially in England with the likes of Drogba, Yaya Toure and co. Can African football go from strength to strength and have nations making a serious challenge for World Cups soon?

SB: As individuals we have had some players playing in England but until we start focusing more on developing the talent we have on this continent more as teams and not individuals and also become tactically more astute and put personal gain in the background, only then will we be able to compete with the rest of the world for silverware on a global stage.

Finally, stick your neck on the line. Tournament winner?

SB: We find ourselves in a very tough group and I will be honest in saying the winner will come from our group. My favourite to win it is Algeria. They have been unstoppable in qualification but also look more like the real deal.


You can follow Shaun on Twitter @shaunbart9

View our other AFCON 2015 previews right here!

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