Voice of African football commentary

Edwin  - CEO February 4, 2024
Updated 2024/02/04 at 3:27 PM
7 Min Read
Credit Cafonline
Credit Cafonline

Mark Gleeson’s consistent contribution to the colorful memories of CAF’s major tournaments is nonpareil



The TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations holds many memories for Africans. For most followers of Africa’s biggest sporting event, a voice contributing to their colorful tournament memories has been consistent for many years.


South Africa’s Mark Gleeson, a seasoned journalist, commentator, columnist, and all-round football lover, took time out of the commentary box to chat to CAFOnline about his years of covering Africa’s biggest event, which for him dates back to the 1992 edition in Senegal.


Since then, Gleeson, regarded as the voice of African football commentary, has covered several global sporting events such as the TotalEnergies CAF AFCON, the Olympic Games, and the FIFA World Cup.


Amongst his endless achievements in covering the African game, Gleeson was awarded the CAF Gold Order of Merit in 2017 for his consistency and outstanding coverage of African football.


In this sit-down with CAFOnline, he takes us back to his first TotalEnergies AFCON, the highlights of this edition, and some of his fondest memories since the 1992 edition.


  1. As someone who has covered the AFCON for so many years, how would you rate the standard of the current edition?


I think this current edition has been the best. One of the main reasons is the quality of pitches. If you allow these fantastic African football artists to play on beautiful surfaces, they bring out the best. In the past, we saw a few AFCONs where the pitches were not up to standard, but this edition has been fantastic. I know there’s been a lot of effort in making sure that the pitches are great and the quality of football, as a result, has been perfect. I would rate it number one.


  1. What about the AFCON you enjoy so much that you have consistently covered for all these years?


It’s the biggest sporting event in Africa. It’s the highest pinnacle for African footballers. It’s the highest pinnacle for African sport. It’s good to see all your friends again when you come here. It’s nice to work on, and there are always nice stories for us journalists, it’s become a bit more institutionalized over the 30 years since I have been covering it, but it’s still a wonderful occasion, and it’s become even better.


  1. What is your fondest memory of a match you covered? 

As a South African, South Africa won it in 1996, beating Tunisia. It was the first time they ever participated in the tournament, the first time ever hosting it, and I think that also sticks in the memories of most of my compatriots. Unfortunately, 1996 is still a reference point. We should have won a few more, but that hasn’t happened. Nonetheless, that is still my highlight regarding the Africa Cup of Nations.


  1. What goes into the preparation for commentating in such matches? 

You have got to do a lot of research on the players. Your job is not only to entertain but primarily, in my opinion, it is to inform; you must be able to tell the viewer about players, situations, and the circumstances of a game, and it’s a lot of notes taking and a lot of paper before going into the commentary box.


  1. Top 3 AFCON tournaments that you have covered and why?


I would say 1996 because South Africa won. It was in my home country, and I particularly enjoyed it. I enjoyed it so much. I also enjoyed 2006 in Egypt because it was an easy tournament to get around. After all, you could drive to all the venues. I remember trying to watch as many matches as I possibly could, except for the matches played simultaneously. I went to every single game. Also, in my first one in Senegal in 1992, we lived in the same hotel with the players. We had breakfast with them around the pool. It was an extraordinary experience in a different era. I played Tennis with Roger Milla. It was great fun.


  1. What have been your highlight matches in this edition?


I have only done the matches at the main stadium and one match in San Pedro, South Africa, beating Morocco. For me, an extraordinary match was Equatorial Guinea beating Cote d’Ivoire, the most significant loss by a home team at the AFCON. It reminded me a bit about that match when Brazil lost to Germany at home in the semi-final of the World Cup in 2014. Everything went wrong on the day. Nothing went right. It was very unfortunate for them (Cote d’Ivoire). It was good that they could bounce back, but I have never seen something so extraordinary.


  1. Which teams have impressed you the most in Cote d’Ivoire? 


A team that has impressed me is Cape Verde. Equatorial Guinea – I think their secret is that they have a consistency that is forced on them because they don’t have a big pool of players, so those little teams doing so well against the big teams are significant.


Cape Verde was getting a great result, and South Africa’s win against Morocco was impressive.


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