CHAN 2018, the AFCON for domestic-based players, starts on Saturday night. It has been the making of Yves Bissouma, Ley Matampi, Harrison Afful and various others since its inception. Here, Salim Masoud Said profiles the potential stars.
Elsmani Elsawi (Sudan)
There is a familiar duo in the Sudan team at CHAN in the form of veterans Muhannad Tahir and Nasr El Din El Shigail, the man affectionately known as”Mr Consistency”, but it’s the explosive Elsamni Elsawi that should provide the entertainment and allow Sudan to surpass expectations.
Think Sudanese footballer and you often picture a lithe, fleet-footed individual, like Bakri Al Madina or Mudathir Karika, that can be tamed with physicality. That’s not the case with Elsawi. Chuck Andre Bikey, Somen Tchoyi, Renato Sanchez and Alexis Mendomo into a blender and you’re likely to get the bulldozing swagger of Elsmani Elsawi, graceful with every touch and able to unleash the unbelievable.
Any team seeking to lure him away from Sudan will have to wait at least for a little longer as they have already been beaten in the race to get him. Libyan giants Ittihad Tripoli have splashed out $200,000 to loan the Al Merriekh attacker. CHAN is, of course, for domestic-based players and the Sudan FA have sensibly blocked the move until the tournament is over.
Walid El Karti (Morocco)
One of the stars of Wydad Casablanca’s African Champions League winning campaign. However, with so many well conditioned, hyper professional Moroccan players to pluck from Europe at Herve Renard’s disposal, El Karti has found it difficult to even make the squad for main national team. His team-mate at Wydad Achraf Bencharki just about has after an impressive CL campaign, but it’s not been enough to make him a shoo-in for Russia.
El Karti’s two goals, one of which came in the final, and all-action performances against Al Ahly show he’s more than capable of coping with the best on the continent. The path is set for hosts Morocco to play all their tournament games in Casablanca in the glorious Mohamed V stadium which will be familiar surrounds for the midfielder. If he can display his typical performances in big games in the venue would make it difficult for Renard to continue ignoring the knock on the door.
Fonsinho (Ivory Coast)
You don’t have to be told that Fonsinho is Gervinho’s brother. With similar hairstyle, a similar style of play, and a similar black hairband sported, a SFG bandiera with half a decade of watching grainy African football streams would certainly think it’s Gevinho.
Like the Ayews, the Toures, the Ayites, the Kones, Fonsinho won’t avoid comparisons with his brother. Rather than adopting his personal identity he seems to have reenacted that of his brother. Like Gervinho, he also has a preference to cut in from the left and he’s even on the books of ASEC Mimosas, where Gervinho was formative football years took place.
For all the derision Gervinho suffered during his time at Arsenal, he’s always been a great ambassador for his country; committed, passionate and, most importantly, consistently excellent. If Fonsinho can replicate that last part then he will go on to have a good career.
Nicholas Wadada (Uganda)
The most senior player in the Uganda but the right back is very much an unsung hero. The Viper SC captain quietly works away, and certainly did quietly work away when he was snubbed for 2 years by the then Uganda coach Micho Sredojevic.
Playing in his third successive CHAN, the 25-year-old has made the right-back position his own for the domestic national team and the main national team. The latter team has one of the best, if not the best, defensive unit on the continent, and Wadada will hope to transmit that discipline into this team. His work in defence is certainly credible, with his positioning and recovery tackles saving the blushes of fellow defenders.
Sekou Camara (Guinea)
You can always rely on Guinea to produce exciting attackers, whether they are rough around the edges or otherwise. In Sekou Camara, also known as Trezeguet, they have churned out another they have high hopes for.
Eight goals in four games during CHAN qualification saw him finish as the top scorer. Those stats reflect the issues he inflicted on opposition defences, namely Guinea-Bissau and Senegal over two legs. Often playing on the shoulder of the last defender, the most impressive feature of Camara’s game is the calmness of his finishing, usually opting for placement over power, and the variety of it.
CHAN can be the making of some players and the scouts will certainly keep their eyes out for the 19 year old.