People in Somalia have to work and use football as a peace tool and that will help bring the country together again and be the greatest country it was in the 60s and 70s and everybody knows that in Africa-Junior Binyam.
The continent’s premier tournament, African Cup of Nations is closing in into the last four with each of the teams battling to win the much coveted prize. Goobjoog TV Sports Editor Hussein Hadafow had an exclusive interview with Confederation of African Football Media Director Junior Binyam from Libreville, Gabon on a range of issues among them Somalia’s qualification to the CHAN Cup 2018 and the role of the media in promoting the game.
Goobjoog TV (GTV): AFCON 2017 is into the Semi Finals. What are some of comparisons between AFCON 2015 held in Equatorial Guinea and AFCON 2017 Gabon?
If we consider the format, there are no major changes. We have 15 teams like previous years. But we can consider something new this year. A country like Guinea Bissau was able to qualify for the first time for final phase of AFCON. That takes it to 39 countries in Africa that have taken part since the cup was created 60 years ago.
Apart from Guinea Bissau participating for the first time the rest are usual insiders as you have seen in the last four. Teams like Ghana, Egypt, are teams that are always there they have won more than half of the trophies so far.
Basically regarding how the tournament is going on nobody was able to predict these three teams would make to the semifinals. So it’s quite a surprise. So far we have good goal rates, an average of 2.2 goals per game which is a better one compared to Equatorial Guinea two years ago.
I think the TV coverage also has increased because we have territories that are covered now and were not covered previously. Territories like Australia, India and some other areas like North America where AFCON was not broadcast live this time round we are showing live matches in these areas.
The main target of CAF is to develop the game and the players in order to compete favorably amongst other continents. Is there any progress you can tell us about the nations and the player’s attending AFCON in 2017?
Yes as you know in 2017 we are starting a new commission cycle. And just to give you an example a team winning two years ago in AFCON would go home with 1.5 million dollars. This year it will be 4.1 million dollars for the winners. So you can see a massive increase in the prize money. That increase is applicable to all the 15 participating teams.
Even the teams that entered qualifiers were able to have a considerable amount of money when the distribution was done at the end of the qualifiers. So bringing more money into the game indeed will help develop the game, increase infrastructure to support the federations in their capacity building programs for referees,coaches and so on.
Some of Africa’s finest like Ivory Coast have shown dismal performance with some of the media outlets claiming that some players don’t take this tournament seriously, such as Saido Mane. Do you think some of the players don’t take this game seriously?
No you will hardly consider such argument. Playing for his country is a matter of pride. So I think all these players who come to play for their country are doing it out of pride. I know the fans have some expectations and may not be happy with the delivery some players are giving at the end of the day because each time a country goes to the tournament it hopes to emerge winner at the end of the day.
But also other teams are watching and improving.So not making to reach at a certain point doesn’t mean players are not showing commitment. It simply means others were better at a certain point.
African players display some good performance in the top leagues in Europe and top clubs elsewhere. But back home African leagues are not doing so well. What is the reason behind this and how can African leagues be developed?
Football is a team, a team work so a player delivering in another environment doesn’t expect he can deliver the same in another environment because the team mates are not the same. Maybe the conditions under which the guy prepared for the tournament are not the same. Imagine twenty years ago George Weah was the best player in the world but Liberia was not the best team in the world.
You as a player can have a particular skill; you can be gifted but that doesn’t mean all the players in the field are particularly gifted so players may have tremendous performance elsewhere but when they come back at home maybe their teams mates are not up to the standards.
You have to consider one thing. Preparing for a tournament like AFCON, you have something like ten days before the tournament begins. In club situation a coach has a whole year to put in place a strategy and work to enforce his ideas. Within the national team you don’t have the same time, you don’t have the same ability to construct a game identity and to impose a play style.
CAF has another Tournament called CHAN which is another version of AFCON only this time it aims at promoting African based players. Please expound on this.
Promoting CHAN was basically based on the fact that President Hayatou observed that nowadays, most of the players participating in the AFCON are from clubs abroad. So locally players trained in Africa are not having the opportunity to play in the national teams. So CHAN is just out in place to make sure we strengthen our local leagues, we develop our local leagues and give more exposure to players who are playing in the national league.
Kenya will host CHAN 2018 and my country Somalia is in the qualifications. Is CAF prepared to welcome Somalia to compete in the tournament?
Somalia has been one of the member associations in African which has had a huge impact in the development of the game. We have teams working in Somalia. As you can remember the President of Somalia FA was awarded the leader of the year at the Gala awards.
That was a recognition of the work he has done and what he is doing on the ground. So we expect with what is going in Somalia to see the national team shinning in areas like CHAN qualifiers, I wouldn’t be surprised if I see Somalia emerging qualifier in the east zone.
Earlier this month FIFA expanded FIFA World Cup tournament to 48 countries. UEFA made EURO a 24 countries tournament in 2016. What is CAF planning to do to give more opportunities to many countries that are not able to qualify for AFCON?
You have to consider the African environment. Now we don’t have many countries able to host an AFCON. Getting AFCON to 24 teams or more than 16 means more constraints for host country it means that after sometime you wouldn’t have more than ten countries able to host an AFCON with 24 countries. Getting a stadia and all the infrastructure needed is quite a tough challenge for many countries in Africa. We just want the organization of AFCON to be dedicated only to some countries with a certain level of development.
To increase the teams, we have to consider how many countries are able to host such tournament.
There has been call to move the tournament to a much favorable time that does not coincide with Europe’s elite leagues, where Clubs are reluctant to release players. Is CAF considering that?
No, CAF is not considering moving the tournament. That is not even an option because playing in African in June or July means that from north to south, east to west you have some challenges when it comes to weather.
When you look at the West Africa it is a rainy season and the way you do the planning for AFCON there is no way you can have a game delay, because when you have heavy rain, where will you find space in the calendar to reschedule a new game?
That’s why CAF has been looking for the best period weather-wise for most of the African countries to be able to host the tournament. Africa has its own challenges; its own weather and we cannot abide by or comply with a calendar set in Europe.
In 2013, you were appointed CAF head of media. In your first year you successfully organized a workshop for media directors and media officers of African football federations. As we know media is the backbone of sports, what your plan in regards to developing African sports Journalists?
We are trying first to give the skills to all the media officers of member associations to make sure they are up to the standards that are put in place worldwide. Media is key to the development of football. If you need to increase your income, you need to give exposure to the activities because it is that exposure that sponsors are looking for.
We have been lobbying to the extent that CAF can make sure that, at least they come up with a resolution deciding to oblige each members association to hire member staff on a permanent basis because some associations do not even have a media officer.
So let’s start from here and make sure that those media officers are hired on a permanent basis and we try in these workshops to support them to put in place networks to make sure we can share experiences, information and increase the exposure of African football.
There was a plan to host under 17 tournament in Madagascar in April 2017. However, we heard it was moved. What can you tell us about the new plans and country which will host that tournament?
Hopefully there is an executive committee meeting to be held on the February 3rd here in Libreville and maybe by that time a decision will be made. As you know after the last meeting the decision was made to withdraw the tournament from Madagascar and new bids were opened for countries that may wish to host that tournament. On the third of February 3rd we may get to know which countries will host the tournament for 2017.
Last but not the least you’re talking to Goobjoog TV in Somalia and it’s your first time to speak to Somalia media exclusively. What could you tell the people of Somalia especially sports people.
I would tell the people of Somalia to place their commitment to the game, the passion they have for football because despite the context we all know, all the challenges the country has been going through football remains a unifying factor, something so important in Somalia.
That is why media houses like Goobjoog have to be praised for the efforts they are putting to improve development the game, praised for their commitment because to see what is done in Somalia despite the environment and that the country has not been stable for a while it’s really encouraging and we have to rely on the power of football.
Football is bridge to so many barriers, to bridge people that have been fighting for a while. People in Somalia have to work and use football as a peace tool and that will help bring the country togetherness again and be the greatest country it was in the 60s and 70s and everybody knows that in Africa.