Euro 2012 winners pocket US $33.76 million, AFCON 2012 winners scrimp on US $1.5 million: Is the Africa Cup worth the bother?

While there was enough on the pitch to dazzle one in Sunday’s Euro 2012 final between Spain and Italy, was jolted in equal measure by the reported US $ 33.76 million prize money that was on offer to the winners. A few days before Spain pocketed its hefty cheque, Zambia’s Sports Minister, Chishimba Kambwili announced in parliament that the Chipolopolo spent US $ 2.4 million in preparations in order to win a paltry $ 1.5 million 2012 Afcon prize! The said abysmal sum has so far been released in two equal instalments of $ 600, 000 by the Confederation of African Football (CAF). A sum of $300, 000 is still outstanding five months after the tournament concluded!!

The tired excuse that rings out everytime a financial comparison is drawn between African and European competitions is that the two are not equal. It now appears to be accepted wisdom that African football competitions are worth nothing much. Players are expected to play for the love of the game and the honour of representing their country and are expected to pretend that they do not have an eye on the prize money. This twaddle sounds very good and sits comfortably with the serially naive. To the extent that CAF never reveals its financial affairs, there is no knowing what is left over after paltry sums have been dished around.

While a blind eye cannot be cast at the sound financial resources of Uefa, other less endowed football bodies have made positive strides than CAF in remunerating tournament participants. The winners of the 2011 South American continental competition – the Copa America, Uruguay, were awarded $7 million. Although the winners of the Asian Cup have traditionally never been awarded cash prizes, from the 2015 edition US $ 10 million will be shared among the winners, runners-up and the third placed team. For North American teams, hoisting the Concaf Gold Cup brought with it a reward of $17 million in 2009 and the last placed team was guaranteed receipt of $1.4 million.

Against the backdrop of what these other associations are offering participating nations, the prize money for the Africa Cup is not only degrading but an insult to the players who make the showpiece the success that it has always been. With the 2012 Africa Cup being beamed to a wider global audience thereby attracting viewership figures of 6.6 billion there is money swirling around in the African game. However, there appears to be a thick blanket of secrecy around the financial affairs of the continental soccer body.

The national associations might have to fight for an upward review of the embarassing figures CAF doles out to the participants in the African Nations Cup. The participating nations’ football associations need to take a united stand to get what they deserve. The associations must be resolute enough as not to rule out the “the nuclear option” of boycotting future tournaments. This option will make sponsors sit up and force their hands to interest themselves in the financial affairs of CAF. It must always be borne in mind that in Africa power never concedes any advantage without a spirited fight.

After the technically gifted Spanish artists have mesmerised us all with their brand of superior possession football on the pitch, they then face the daunting task of counting their millions. In 2010 they bagged US $ 30 million for lifting the World Cup. In 2011, a good number of them won the Champions League with FC Barcelona and helped themselves to the $ 14 million largesse on offer. For the Spanish, success on the pitch is translating into a wealthy football federation and wealthy players. The African players and their begging African football federations can only look on and wish…

Gilbert Phiri

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