Last hurrahs at the African Nations Cup

Posted by Firdose Moonda

As the debate between club and country continues to affect the African Nations' Cup, the competition is seen more as a place to spot up and coming players rather than an exhibition ground for the already successful. Too often those have made it abroad become unavailable for the ANC because of club commitments and the calendar clash.

But there are some senior statesmen who return to the tournament, underlining its importance and prestige. A few will enjoy a last hurrah in 2013 and to sign off as champions of the continent would suit them just fine. Football Africa takes a look at who may see their final soiree in South Africa.

Didier Drogba

Regarded as the prodigal son of the African football, Drogba has achieved what most can only dream of. He has won the Premier League and Champions League with Chelsea and is now winding down his career with Chinese side Shangai Shenhua. Missing on his CV is achievement at international level and he has made it no secret that he wants to change that.

Drogba will make his fifth attempt to win a continental crown with the Ivory Coast. In his last attempt, Ivory Coast reached the final and Drogba's penalty miss in regulation time took the fixture to extra time before the Elephants went down in a shootout.

For this event, Drogba has been elevated to the captaincy in the team's quest for silverware. He will lead a strong side that includes the Toure brothers, Emmanuel Eboue and Didier Zakora. All signs are that South Africa will be Drogba's sign-off event and he will not want to leave empty handed.

Seydou Keita

Like Drogba, Keita now plays his football in China at Dalian Aerbin FC, regarded as sure-fire way indication that the end is nigh. Like Drogba, an ANC medal could make that sure he ends on a high.

Keita first represented Mali in 2001 when he was 21-years-old. Twelve years later, he has played 74 matches for his country and came closest to taking them to glory in the 2012 edition. He captained them to the semi-finals of the competition, in a similar way to when he helped the Malian under-20s to the bronze at the 1999 World Youth Championship in Nigeria.

Then, Keita was the tournament's best player. In 2012, he was probably the most socially conscious. He used the event to campaign for assistance for those affected by the food crisis in the Sahel area. This time, the ANC will be used to as a vehicle to raise awareness and a fund for malaria victims, but don't be surprised if Keita makes another big statement for his own region, whether it’s to do with football or not.

John Pantsil

Having played for Ghana for over a decade, Pantsil has reached the point in his career where he has started showing desperation for the trophy. In preparation for this year's event Pantsil was quoted saying he has "dreamt of the day Ghana will lift the trophy," since he made his debut. "We have talked about our chances far too long and it's time we win something for our people," he said.

Pantsil is a veteran of the Ghana team and participated in the 2002 and 2006 ANC, the 2004 Olympics, the 2006 World Cup and every match of the 2010 World Cup. At 31, he may still have some years left in him but he seems to be hinting at the end and even cut his hair in a special Mohawk to show off at this year's ANC.

Vincent Enyeama

Although Enyeama is only 30 and with ANC scheduled every two years, there's a chance he could play another tournament if Nigeria qualify for the 2015 even. But there is no disputing that forms part of the more experienced pack of players at the event and may feel its time he has something to show for his years of service.

Enyeama was first picked for Nigeria a decade ago at the 2002 World Cup where he was a replacement player, but has since been their first-choice goalkeeper throughout. He was part of the squad that took part in the 2004, 2006 and 2010 ANC's.

He is regarded as one of the best shot-stoppers in the game and put in a sublime performance the last time Nigeria where in South Africa, for the 2010 World Cup. He allowed a star-studded Argentinean side only one goal and even earned the praise of Diego Maradona. An ANC trophy may just trump that.

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