RABAT, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- The 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) kicks off in Morocco on Saturday, offering an ideal opportunity for emerging African talent to impress scouts.
Held until Feb. 4., the tournament is reserved only for African players who play club football in their own domestic championships.
First staged in Cote d'Ivoire in 2009 with eight-team finals, the CHAN quickly doubled in size to 16 in the last edition in Rwanda in 2016.
Morocco's economic capital Casablanca hosts the opening match between Morocco and Mauritania, an Arab and northwest Africa derby. The hosting team is eying to repeat the scenario of the two teams last encounter in November when Morocco defeated Mauritania 4-2 in a friendly in their build-up for the competition.
The Moroccan side aim to lift their first trophy in the tournament after frustrating participation in 2016 when they left from group stage and a better one in 2014 as they reached quarter-finals.
They feature one of the best squads in the championship with six stars from the Wydad Casablanca team that won the 2017 CAF Champions League, six from city rivals Raja and three stars from 2017 CAF Confederation Cup semi-finalists FUS Rabat.
In addition to Morocco and Mauritania, Group A features also Guinea and Sudan.
Group B consists of Cote d'Ivoire, Zambia, Uganda and Namibia, while 2014 champions Libya make up Group C with Nigeria, Rwanda and debutants Equatorial Guinea.
Cameroon tackle Angola, Congo Brazzaville and Burkina Faso in Group D.
CHAN 2018 will witness the use of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology for the first tie in Africa. VAR, which is scheduled to be used from the quarter-finals, will allow off-field match officials to assist referees in "game-changing" situations such as goals, penalty kicks, straight red cards and cases of mistaken identity.
While the biennial tournament is regarded as one of the most unpredictable African competitions, there is one thing that is sure this time: a new champion will duke it out in the name of the fifth edition of the tournament. The holders and record two-time champions DR Congo (2009-2016) will not be in Morocco to defend their title after losing to Congo Brazzaville in qualifying.
However, the winners of the two remaining editions are present, namely Tunisia, winners of second edition in Sudan in 2011, and Libya who lifted the trophy in South Africa in the third edition in 2014.
Three legends, Nourredine Naybet (Morocco), Robert Kidiaba (DR Congo) and Adel Chedli (Tunisia) have been appointed ambassadors for the African Nations Championship (CHAN) Morocco 2018.
Naybet enjoyed a successful spell with Wydad Casablanca both locally and continentally, winning particularly the 1992 CAF Champions League, before leaving for successful career in Europe.
Winner of the first edition of the CHAN in 2009 with DR Congo, Kidiaba earned global status with TP Mazembe, where he has won virtually every title at both domestic and continental levels.
As for Tunisian Chedli, he made history by becoming the first and only player to win both Africa Cup of Nations and CHAN titles.
The trio were named in recognition of their contribution and impact towards the game in their various capacities, and will conduct ambassadorial duties during the tournament.
Source : http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-01/13/c_136893285.htm550