By ALLAN BULUKU, Daily Nation, Kenya
- In a â€˜dark continentâ€™ where the rest of the world only sees disease, hunger and coups, this is probably the positive story that lifts our spirits the most.
- In Africa, itâ€™s not rare to postpone a problem; we live for the present, the future will take care of itself.
- In Equatorial Guinea, the Black Stars have an opportunity to make amends for the World Cup debacle and bring a smile to their nation and millions of their fans in Africa.
Good people, you may need to mark this day in your diaries because it will come in handy: January 17, 2015.
As most of us will be counting losses following heavy expenditure over the December holidays and the new school year, 16 of Africaâ€™s finest footballing nations will, on this date, begin the chase for glory in the tiny Equatorial Guinea.
And, as it happens every two years, millions of football enthusiasts will yet again stay glued to their television sets, tune in to the radio, thump through the newspaper pages or scour the Internet to catch the latest from Africaâ€™s premier football show.
In a â€˜dark continentâ€™ where the rest of the world only sees disease, hunger and coups, this is probably the positive story that lifts our spirits the most.
This is a mega party from Dar es Salaam to Dakar, Johannesburg to Cairo that celebrates the beauty of the African game. Because itâ€™s usually held in January â€“ when we are licking the financial wounds of the festive season â€“ we will, for three weeks, ignore our problems and rally behind our favourite teams.
In Africa, itâ€™s not rare to postpone a problem; we live for the present, the future will take care of itself. Then by February 9, when itâ€™s all done and dusted, reality checks in and forces us back to our monotonous cycle: Running up and down to meet those annoying obligations â€“ bills, bills, billsâ€¦ Such is life.
Just before the 2014 World Cup, I backed Ghana to excel in Brazil. Much was expected of the Black Stars â€“ â€˜the Brazilians of Africaâ€™, as they are fondly known â€“ following their inspiring performance in South Africa 2010.
But then, a combination of organisational, technical and comical errors on- and off the pitch would lead to a disappointing show.
In Equatorial Guinea, the Black Stars have an opportunity to make amends for the World Cup debacle and bring a smile to their nation and millions of their fans in Africa.
It however wonâ€™t be smooth sailing for Ghana as they have been condemned to a pool that also has Senegal, a resurgent South African side who were unbeaten in the qualifiers and Algeria, who are ranked number one in Africa.
On their last trip to Equatorial Guinea, Senegal lost all three of their matches despite being some peopleâ€™s favourites to win the tournament.
As they say, your history does not define your future; so itâ€™s natural that The Lions of Teranga will be out in full force to maul all before them. Whichever way you look at it, however, itâ€™s a mouthwatering pool. Bafana Bafana are the most recent winners in the group after their 1996 triumph but Ghana have won it four times.
This, perhaps, explains why there is confidence in the side despite missing lethal forward Asamoah Gyan and midfield dynamo Kwadwo Asamoah.
The Black Stars won the last of their continental titles in 1992 but came closest to adding a fifth when they lost the final 1-0 against Egypt in Angola.
Will Ghana, now under the leadership of the Israeli coach Avram Grant, silence critics and reclaim the African crown? Maybe, if they can navigate their way out of the â€˜Group of Deathâ€™.