Mark Fish has opened up about his experiences at the ongoing TotalEnergies African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Algeria where he is working as a member of the CAF Technical Study Group (TSG).
The former South Africa captain Mark Fish is working in his second CHAN as a member of the body that selects the best players of the matches at the tournament designed exclusively for home-based players.
The 1996 Africa Cup of Nations winner, nicknamed The Big Fish, in an exclusive interview with Cafonline.com spoke about the city of Annaba where he was based as well as the key things he has observed about the competition.
“It’s a joy talking football with you here, though I didn’t pack my bag right,” said Fish, who jokingly told Cafonline.com about the weather in the city with daytime temperature hovering around 11 degrees.
But the former defender has been comforted by the huge stadium attendances by Algerian football fans with record numbers demonstrating that the passion for football is alive – something he cherishes.
“I understand some players are in a hurry probably because of poverty, which isn’t ideal. Money only lasts for a while. Players should always move for the right reasons to a country that will better them”, he said.
On a mission to select stand-out players of each game and the entire tournament as well as providing technical and analysis of the competition, the former defender admits love for his job.
“It’s an interesting and a very much enjoyable job, being part of the technical study team. We watch the games and have to pick the best players so at the end, we make the team of the tournament.
“The Algerian fans have caught my attention the way they enjoy football and support the teams. The fans’ love for the games are eye-catching,” the former Buccaneer said.
This year’s tournament, reserved for players plying their trade in their country, has been one of the most competitive with the increase of teams to 18. There have been some upsets which according to Fish, depicts the level of growth of the game on the continent.
“Mozambique and Madagascar have won games and progressed which speaks volumes, especially Madagascar who are newcomers. I’ve watched Ethiopia and Angola as well; they play good football.
“This is why football is called the beautiful game. You go into a football match with a so-called underdog and you are not guaranteed of winning. For instance, Uganda didn’t concede a goal in their first two games. They did not outplay Senegal, but they scrambled the result.”
Fish, who played for many top clubs in Italy and England including Lazio, Bolton, Ipswich and Charlton, thinks the CHAN can be improved if the eligibility criteria widened.
“Looking at the format, we can consider players playing on the continent. There’s a Cameroonian striker (Marou Souaibou) who has moved to South Africa and he is not eligible to play at the CHAN,” he said.
“Most players, if they have the opportunity, want to travel to Europe. But if I am a South African who has the opportunity, why not move to Algeria or Cameroon, to try out a different culture in football?
“It could make the tournament more competitive. No matter where a player plays on the continent, he could be given the opportunity to represent his country. Again, if we are looking at real development, there should be an age limit sometime in the future.
“We could cap the competition at U23s. It’s a topic for football lovers. We weren’t relevant at the World Cup, but now we are relevant after Qatar and we can build on it.”
With the CHAN paving the way for many footballers to attract the attention of clubs abroad, the former South Africa international believes players and their clubs must be patient in taking such decisions.
“We have situations where players hastily move after the CHAN. The best thing to do after a competition like this is to have a right agent representing you with interest,” the member of the CAF’s TSG said.
“I understand some players are in a hurry probably because of poverty, which isn’t ideal. Money only lasts for a while. Players should always move for the right reasons to a country that will better them,” Fish ended.
Fish started football at a tender age, playing for Arcadia Shepherds before forming part of an incredible Bafana Bafana squad that won the 1996 African Cup of Nations (AFCON).
He scored one of the goals in the quarter-final against Algeria and was named in the Team of the Tournament in both the 1996 and 1998 AFCONs. In total he won 62 caps for the Bafana Bafana, scoring twice.
His presence at the CHAN will inspire the next generation of African footballers.
Credit : CAF MEDIA