Interview with a Former Congolese international who sat down with CafOnline to discuss the tournament, the first round, and his aspirations for the future
- He attended all of the DR Congo group matches.
- He participated in the 2002 TotalEnergies CAF AFCON in Mali
- Nonda is one of the CAF Legends selected to promote the TotalEnergies CAF AFCON Côte d’Ivoire 2023
Former Congolese international Shabani Christophe Nonda experienced the first round of the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations Côte d’Ivoire 2023 by watching his country, DR Congo, play.
The former top scorer sat down with CafOnline to discuss the tournament, the first round, and his aspirations for the future.
What is your assessment of the TotalEnergies CAF AFCON Côte d’Ivoire 2023?
This TotalEnergies CAF AFCON is a great success. It is a competition at the crossroads between the old format of 16 teams and that of the last two editions of 24 nations. The level is very high, and the organization is perfect.
The Ivorian government has surpassed itself at the local level, and CAF has put in significant resources.
Visually, we see that CAF has reached a milestone. It’s good for football, Africa, and the continent’s image.
At the sporting level, the level is very high, with many surprises. Big favorites like Tunisia and Algeria have fallen, to name a few, even the organizing country, which fled at the last minute. Angola, Cape Verde, and Equatorial Guinea produce beautiful football. It’s suitable for the show.
How do you rate the Leopards of the D.R. Congo?
We got off to a bad start in the playoffs, losing our first two games. Nobody gave us much of a chance to qualify. The boys finally did it.
There was also a change in the coaching department with Sébastien Desabre, who arrived. In a short time, he changed the dynamic with motivated players.
Today, if we look at the game level, the team is much better. There is consistency and a style of play. The boys are happy to be on the pitch, and there is positive competition. Indeed, we didn’t score many goals. But we had an excellent first round. We’ll see what happens on Sunday against Egypt.
And as this TotalEnergies CAF AFCON is a competition of great surprises, anything is possible.
Which players have impressed you so far?
Many players have been impressive, but I will stick to the collectives that impressed me, such as Cape Verde. There is Senegal, which remains very impressive on a collective level. There is also Equatorial Guinea, Angola, and DR Congo, even among eliminated teams like Zambia, with sparkling players. The level of football has been raised.
The tournament is in the round of 16 stage. Who do you think will win the trophy?
As a former professional player, I’ve often been around the industry.
In football, you cannot predict in advance. We have already seen a lot of surprises. All the nations have prepared well with good-level players. We also see little difference between the levels of the players.
It is difficult to feel any differences in the field, which means that there has been a lot of improvement, and that is positive. We must congratulate CAF for that, too, with all the initiatives undertaken in recent years. The development projects that are multiplying on the continent also help.
It is very difficult to predict today who will win this trophy. Everything remains open. With my experience as a former player, I would not advise anyone to bet, even if we have Senegal and Morocco.
Even with Ivory Coast, it will not be easy for Senegal to eliminate them like that. Everyone is capable of winning. Let the terrain decide.
Your best memory of TotalEnergies CAF AFCON
It’s this festive side. When you are there, we feel like it’s a party. You are happy to see your friends again. You feel the nation behind you. But by being professional, you know how to handle pressure. For me, these were unforgettable moments in my career.
I haven’t done many TotalEnergies CAF AFCONs in my career because I got injured before the competitions each time. But I remember TotalEnergies CAF AFCON 2002 in Mali. It was very festive, and I had good times with my teammates.