Nigeria players hold up the trophy after defeating Burkina Faso in the final of the African Cup of Nations at the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg. Photo: Armando Franca

Johannesburg – The Africa Cup of Nations came to an end in the Calabash, one of the great stadiums of the world, on Sunday night, a celebration of football and an end to another international tournament hosted by the Rainbow Nation.

It was 23 days that was a show of the good, the bad and the ugly.

The good was that the tournament was organised inside a year – a triumph of logistics after South Africa had been given the tournament following the unrest and coup in Libya.

The fact it was a coup that South Africa had helped to start, after its controversial vote for the no-fly zone in the UN Security Council, was no small irony.

The good was also how the South Africans took to the tournament, selling out matches at the start and end of the event.

The bad were the small crowds in between the big matches, the patchy organisation and excuses by the local organising committee, and the failure to live up to standards set by the 2010 World Cup.

The ugly was the standard of refereeing and quality of pitches in Mbombela and Durban.

Bafana lost and then won hearts with a rollercoaster performance that suggested there was more to come, but a long path yet to run.

Dean Furman, who plays for Oldham in the third tier of English football, was the team’s saviour, which, sadly, says a lot about the poor standard of South African football.

Gordon Igesund deserved to keep his job after making the quarter-finals, but Bafana will never be a great team in his lifetime. He has a team of players mostly trapped in the PSL, a league that does not improve but is stuck in an insular loop of mediocrity.

Every step forward Igesund takes should be applauded, for it is an improvement of quite extraordinary accomplishment. Reaching the 2014 World Cup will be a dream.

On Sunday night, the Africa Cup of Nations was ended with a closing ceremony that included Nigerian pop star D’Banj, who sang Oliver Twist, his hit song.

Yvonne Chaka Chaka, who – with Mark Fish had read out a statement against malaria – sang about “hearts of fire” with soul-filling beauty. Kelly Khumalo shouted a lot, as is her wont, while dancers formed the shape of the continent of Africa.

“We’re playing homage to the continent that cradled humankind,” boomed the voice-over in the stadium, before a commercial selling South Africa to the world was aired with statistics galore.

From outside the stadium came the news that some fans could not get in because their tickets would not scan properly at the turnstiles.

It took 23 days and 31 games to get to the final on Sunday night. South Africa was proud, glad and relieved it had been reached. – The Star