With Africa's first FIFA World Cup™ now just two and a half years away, every tournament hosted on the African continent will be under close scrutiny.
It's a fact the organisers of the Ghana 2008 MTN African Nations Cup (AFCON) are well aware of. And with Africa's premier football event now just 10 days away, they're confident they will rise to the occasion and host a memorable event.
Amid much fanfare, the glitzy AFCON trophy made an appearance today at the SAFA House headquarters of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa (OC).
The trophy is in South Africa as part of a trophy tour of the 16 countries who will compete Ghana 2008 from January 20 to February 10.
It was brought to SAFA House by Ghana 2008 Local Organising Committee Board Member, David Tetteh, the Chairman of the Tamale Venue Organising Committee Bollina Saaka and former Ghana international Anthony Baffoe, who is the Ghana 2008 Director for International Relations. They presented the shiny trophy to the 2010 OC's Chief Executive Officer Dr Danny Jordaan.
"We're building a bridge from Ghana to South Africa and we are doing everything to host a fantastic African Cup of Nations. For us it is an African World Cup of Nations in reference to 2010. People are coming to Ghana not only to see how Ghana is organised, but how Africa is organised. And we are inviting all South Africans to come to Ghana and we will do our best to host them to the best of our ability. God bless Ghana, God bless South Africa and God bless Africa," said Baffoe, who played for Ghana's Black Stars national team 16 times and made his name in the German Bundesliga with clubs such as FC Koln, Stuttgart Kickers and Fortuna Dusseldorf.
"We all are looking forward to a wonderful experience in Ghana. The expectation that this will be the best ever African Nations Cup is huge. Certainly from a playing point of view, featuring players like Kolo Toure, Samuel Eto'o, Didier Drogba, Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel we're expecting that it will deliver high-quality football. We have African players who are now not only in the starting line-ups, but who are stars at some of the biggest clubs in the world".
"The Ghana 2008 African Nations Cup will further strengthen the character of the game on the continent and we want to wish you as the organisers of the tournament the very best. You will help us. Because if you do a good job - and we know you will - people will see that not only are Africans good on the playing field, they're good organisers as well," said Jordaan.
He said from a 2010 perspective there was the added incentive for the winners of Ghana 2008 of a guaranteed place at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa.
Dr Jordaan commended the Ghana 2008 LOC for their decision to take the AFCON trophy to all the competing countries.
"The trophy tour gives a connection to the tournament to those people in the competing countries. It gives those countries the chance to experience the symbols of the tournament and also helps to market the African Nations Cup. It is a trophy and a tournament that needs to be entrenched in the hearts and minds of all African people," said Dr Jordaan.
For Tetteh, bringing the African Nations Cup trophy to South
Africa - and to SAFA House - was a "great privilege".
"It's great sharing this moment with you. South Africa and Ghana have always been very good friends and the warm welcome we received after touching down in South Africa testified to that friendship," said Tetteh.