As I lay in bed in downtown Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, a lonely vuvuzela pierced the night. It would only get worse. As each game progressed, the nightly noises would build to a crescendo: whistles, singing, dogs howling and horns honking. Lusaka was quiet before each game, but after the final whistle, the city would exhale as tensions lifted. Another game over and an even greater belief that anything is possible.
With so many of Africa's major footballing nations not qualifying for this year's Cup of Nations, the big story of the group stages was the unexpected success of co-hosts Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Both qualified for the knockout rounds with a game to spare and both did it in dramatic style.
On the same weekend that the big guns of European football secured their places at Euro 2012, several major African teams were being eliminated from the corresponding Cup of Nations in 2012. Eight of the winners from the past nine tournaments failed to make it on a weekend of drama, disappointment and farce. The list of failures includes reigning champions Egypt, alongside the traditional powerhouses Nigeria and Cameroon, and World Cup 2010 hosts South Africa.
The Cape Town Stadium might just be the most spectacular football arena in the world. Perched on the ocean's edge between upmarket Green Point and the tourist-friendly Victoria and Albert waterfront, the location was earmarked specifically by Sepp Blatter, who felt the dramatic backdrop of Table Mountain would provide the defining image of the 2010 World Cup finals.
On December 30 last year, while most Spanish footballers were on their winter break, 60 African and European players were at Atlético Madrid's Vicente Calderón stadium for a charity Champions for Africa game organised by Sevilla's Frédéric Kanouté. Over 40,000 fans paid in to see a José Mourinho-managed Africa United team, featuring players such as Kanouté, Lass Diarra and Carlos Kameni, win 3-2 against a Spanish League selection captained by Sergio Ramos and including Kun Agüero, David Trezeguet and Juan Valerón.
Paul Giess looks at the legacy of the summer's World Cup for the hosts and the future prospects for the national league
The surge of optimism experienced across South Africa during the 2010 World Cup having died down, daily life has returned its normal mix of strikes, unpopular government legislation and continued difficult economic conditions. At the start of the new football season there are still a handful of well-worn flags flying from cars and houses as residents cling on to memories of the few weeks when their divided nation came together as one. It remains to be seen if this will spill over into any renewed support for the 16 teams that will battle out the 2010-11 Premier Soccer League (PSL).
This part of east Africa has a deep love of football, both in domestic and international terms. Andy Ryan reports
It’s a title decider. Red Sea FC, the traditional giants of the Eritrean game, will be champions if they beat struggling Tesfa. A whisper in my right ear says: “Watch Red Sea’s number eight, he has much talent.” Less than 20 seconds later, number eight dispossesses a defender, rounds the keeper and gives Red Sea the lead. The baseball cap-wearing Nostradamus smiles.
Nonsensical immigration rules and poor administration are holding back football across east Africa. Steve Bloomfield reports
McDonald Mariga should have been the first Kenyan to play in the Premier League. The fact he now finds himself playing for Internazionale means no one should feel too sorry for him. However, the failure of Manchester City to sign him on transfer deadline day highlights the problem with Britain’s immigration rules for football – rules which are holding back the development of the game in east Africa.
Jonathan Wilson reports from the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations where he found the football disappointing but the organisation worse
Remember 1990? Remember Cameroon capping a decade of African development by pushing England to the limit in the World Cup quarter-final? Remember the general assumption that African football was emerging into the mainstream and that African nations would soon be challenging for the tournament on a regular basis? Since then, despite the increasing prevalence of African players at top club sides, more teams from the Asian confederation have reached the last eight than from Africa.
Andy Brassell looks at an organisation, run by a former international, that seeks to protect young players in Africa
While the football world at large queued up to applaud RC Lens’ stand against Chelsea after the Londoners were punished over the Gaël Kakuta affair, one voice from across the channel notably dissented. Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini may have mentioned Kakuta as a victim of “child slavery” and “child trafficking”, but Jean-Claude Mbvoumin knows the full meaning of those terms and the often neglected problem that they represent in the game.