Is the world not fed up with an opening ceremony of major sporting event that is limited to march past, music and dance on the pitch and terraces?
This is the 50th anniversary of the All-Africa Games (AAG) so why can’t the world see something different from the continent that proudly sits at the centre of the world?
How about an African XI football side comprising 11 head of states and presidents – and no reserves – against their counterparts from the rest of the world?
Africa leaders are tired of being pushed around by the west in times of politics, economics, and business. They now have the opportunity to do the pushing and shoving, at least for 90 minutes, at the opening ceremony of the 11th All-Africa Games!
Muhammadu Buhari, the president of Nigeria, will tinker the team while Denis Sassou Nguesso, president of the hosting nation Republic of Congo will serve as the masseur.
The rest of the world can meet in the White House to decide who represents them but here’s the 11 chosen among the best of equals to form Voltron that will defend the continent’s pride and honour!
Hery Rajaonarimampianina, Madagascar
Hery Rajaonarimampianina has been the president of Madagascar since January 2014, but the keyboard which has been in existence long before then has “copy and paste” buttons because of names like these.
The commentators reporting this game won’t have the luxury of Control-C and V as Rajaonarimampianina (I copied and pasted it) has the longest name for a world leader with 19 letters.
There is even a whole tutorial on how to pronounce his name, but our commentators can improvise with short forms of his name. Raja (Casablanca), Onari (Duke), Imam, Amp (lifier), and Nina if he wouldn’t mind a female name.
But we have placed him in goal, and not in gaol, because statistically, the goalkeeper sees less of the ball in the duration of a game. So our commentators can heave a sigh of relieve. Except, of course, the Rest of the World XI are planning to spell Rajaonarimampianina and beat Africa XI 19-0!
Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe
To prevent such an embarrassing scoreline, we have decided to put Mugabe, who knows a lot about resistance after being president since December 1987, in our team. The geriatric president may not last the entire duration of the game and we won’t even risk that because we cannot entirely vouch for the effectiveness of the ambulance and those manning it at the stadium. Moreover, we are not ready for a sequel of this…
But our good old Bob also made this team because this match presents him with an opportunity to make good on his promise of proposing to Barack Obama, the president of America and the captain of Rest of the World, and have his hand in marriage!
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt
A no-nonsense “5” like Mugabe needs an authoritarian “6” to shield Rajaonarimampianina in goal. Abdel Fattah has only been in power since June 2014, but he fits the bill perfectly.
Critics call him a chameleon, but that’s what convinced us to pick him for this team. A person who changes their behaviour or opinions according to the situation is someone needed for this match to outwit whatever the Rest of the World XI comes up with.
Also, he was the target of a 2014 Anti-Sisi Twitter hash tags that opposed his run for Egypt’s presidency – which failed. The fear was that Sisi will bring the country back to the authoritarian days of Hosni Mubarak after showing a glimpse of that when barely out of uniform; he ousted incumbent Mohamed Morsi and outlawed his Muslim Brotherhood.
That will be music to the ears of Mugabe and Rajaonarimampianina (copied and pasted)!
Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya
Uhuru Kenyatta makes our back-four because he’s Kenya’s fourth president!
Well, that’s not entirely true, though. His boyish look, physique, and exotic sounding name are qualities we couldn’t resist which The Hague found flimsy and insisted he appear before it for crime against humanity.
Unlike Mugabe, he has only been in office since April 2013 but like his Zimbabwean counterpart, this match will see Uhuru reunite with his brother from another mother – Barack Obama.
Paul Biya, Cameroon
Paul Biya is the president of Cameroon – the position he has held since November 1982. And at 82, Biya is currently the longest ruling non-royal head of state in the world.
But a country that has produced Milla, Abega, Biyick, Mboma, and Eto’o should have its president in a line-up like this. But then Biya earns his inclusion for what he did in 2011.
His government ordered MTN Cameroon to shut down access to Twitter to prevent the Twitter-engineered Arab spring that had created mayhem in North Africa. Africa XI needs such a player that can shut out any form of attack – real or imagined.
Paul Kagame, Rwanda
How can we leave out a “visionary leader” as described by ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair? Or who ex-US president Bill Clinton called “one of the greatest leaders of our time”.
Even prominent American Evangelical pastor Rick Warren, who served on Kagame’s advisory board, praised him, saying, “I have never met a leader like Paul Kagame, he is an uncommon leader in an uncommon country.”
Paul Kagame, leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and current president, was presented as the victim-cum-hero of the vicious civil war which gripped that tiny African state in the early to mid-1990s.
He’s no longer seen in that light, but we are no judges. His height and gait will be useful on the soccer pitch.
Jacob Zuma, South Africa
We see a Roy Keane and a Patrick Vieira in Jacob Zuma – players with energy, talent, aggression, and determination to succeed at all costs. And like the former captains of Manchester United and Arsenal, Zuma, Africa XI assistant captain, is bold and unpretentious.
When news came out that he had fathered a child out of wedlock, observers abroad were amused or nonplussed. But not Zuma, a man who has had five wives over his lifetime, currently has four (?) with one fiancée in the wings.
He has fathered 12 children officially, with seven more previously rumoured or confirmed in various sorts of relationships. A man who, on trial in 2006 for raping the HIV-positive daughter of one of his ANC comrades, claimed that it was OK he didn’t use a condom because he took a shower afterward.
You may want to ask: How can a modern president practice polygamy in the first place? Isn’t polygamy an archaic institution? Shouldn’t economic progress, women’s emancipation, and modernity have eradicated it? The answer is more complicated, but his choice in our team is not.
Our midfield needs a tough character, someone who knows how to handle women. Someone who can handle women can handle men.
That’s complicated too but not the choice of Zuma in our team.
Ali Bongo Ondimba, Gabon
Ali Bongo Ondimba has been in power since 2009 and he was the Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1989 to 1991 while his father, Omar Bongo, was president of Gabon from 1967 until his death in 2009.
Ali Bongo Ondimba is in our team because we want Lionel Messi to watch this match live in the stadium!
The president can invite the Barcelona star like he did in July when the best player in the world participated in a ceremony to open the Port-Gentil stadium which will host games at the African Cup of Nations in 2017.
During his visit, Messi signed autographs before getting in a car to make a short, symbolic journey around the stadium with Ali Bongo Ondimba.
This edition of the AAG is symbolic too being the 50th anniversary. So, we need a symbolic soccer figure to grace the occasion. And to get hold of Messi, you must first get hold of Ali Bongo Ondimba.
But we hope Messi won’t be wearing Bermuda shorts and a T-shirt this time around! And we also hope that after his visit, we don’t get to see this headline in France Football: “The little African trip should bring in around 3.5 million euros. Not bad!”
Pierre Nkurunziza, Burundi
Pierre Nkurunziza, the president of Burundi since 2005, will walk into any team in the world!
He recently got elected after seeking a controversial third term bid but his choice in our Africa XI is on merit and it doesn’t require a riot, referendum, reprisal attack or any other relevant and redundant “R” word that could question his eligibility.
And you know what; Pierre Nkurunziza is the captain of the team!
Our forward duo was once, and still, at each other’s throats. But we believe they can finally kiss and make up after this game.
Salva Kiir Mayardit has been the president of South Sudan since the country’s split from Sudan in 2011 while Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan, came into power in 1989.
Kiir also makes our team because it will be interesting to see if he will be wearing his trademark Stetson hat, which was a gift from the former United States president, George W. Bush when he visited the White House in 2006 as the vice president of unified Sudan, on the pitch.
Can he head the ball with it? If he does and scores in the process, will the referee disallow the goal?
It will be quite fascinating too to see how Tom and Jerry – al-Bashir and Kiir – pilot the attack of Africa XI. Will Kiir pass to a better placed al-Bashir to score the first goal in this historic match?
Will they hug each other after the goal or the scorer is given a-Rashidi-Yekini-treatment after finding the net against Bulgaria at the 1994 World Cup? So many questions that can only be answered when the game commences.
We also appreciate the deft moves of Omar al-Bashir who left South Africa for Sudan in defiance of a court order that he must remain to face an international arrest warrant.
His role in the Darfur conflict (which led to the death of as many as 300,000 people and 2 million displaced, according to the UN) has led to his indictment by the international criminal court (ICC) for crimes against humanity.
Bashir travelled to South Africa for an African Union summit chaired by Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, who has urged African leaders to pull out of the ICC. We hope he doesn’t pull out of this game or make another abrupt departure amid urgent calls from the UN general secretary, Ban Ki-moon, the EU and the US for the 71-year-old Sudanese leader to be detained in Congo.
Let the games begin!
Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo (host), Ivory Coast, Djibouti, DR Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
22 separate sports have been announced for the 2015 African Games, and two additional disability sports (Athletics and Swimming)
Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Beach Soccer, Beach Volleyball, Boxing, Cycling, Fencing, Football, Handball, Judo, Traditional Karate, Karate, Pétanque, Rugby, Swimming, Tennis, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Volleyball, Weightlifting, Wrestling