African Nations Championship kicks off

Cape Town, Jan 12: The African Nations Championship (CHAN) kicked off here with a splendid opening ceremony at the iconic Cape Town Stadium.

“It is a great pleasure and honour on behalf of president Jacob Zuma to welcome all African teams here,” South African sports minister Fikile Mbalula said Saturday as he officially declared the tournament open.

“May the best team win but our hearts stand with Bafana Bafana (South African national football team).”

This is the first international football tournament to be held in South Africa since the 2010 FIFA World Cup. CHAN features African national teams made up entirely of players from the domestic leagues. The opening ceremony, themed “Celebrating Africa’s Home Champions”, showcased the diversity and beauty of the 16 participating nations with mass formations and routines on the field.

The crowd enjoyed performances from revered Cape Town-based Jazz musician Jimmy Dludlu, a capella foursome The Soil, beloved Eastern Cape poet and singer Zolani Mkhiva, singer Jessica Mpangeni, and house act, Mi Casa.

The ceremony was followed by the first match between Bafana Bafana and the Mambas of Mozambique. South Africa is in Group A along with Mali, Nigeria and Mozambique. South Africa have met their neighbours Mozambique four times but have won all games.

South Africa finished four in the 2011 edition held in Sudan.

Cape Town will serve as tournament headquarters and Bafana Bafana’s home base. The city will host all Group A and B matches as well as the quarterfinal and semifinals. The tournament will draw to a close with the final match and closing ceremony taking place here Feb 1.

IANS