African football association websites get ready for the Ghana 2008 semi-finals
Were England to get to the semi-final stage of their continental football championship, you can sure that the country and the press would be swept along in a tide of patriotic euphoria, and the FA's official website would be part of that.
Well, that won't be happening at Euro2008, but with the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations reaching the semi-final stage in Ghana this evening, I thought I'd have a look at the websites of the Football Associations of the four teams playing for their place in Sunday's final - Ghana, Cameroon, Egypt and the Ivory Coast.
The website of the Ghana FA had a crisp modern feel about it, and seemed, to me, better than the official site of the tournament itself.
The news was up-to-date, and coverage included photo galleries of events around the matches - including behind-the-scenes pictures of press conference and some of Ghana's excitable support. The images were very noticeably watermarked. Like the news stories, the photo-gallery pages included social bookmarking links.
The site included a 'Polls' section, where users could vote on issues surrounding the national team, and look at the results of previous votes.
The site for the Fédération Camerounaise de Football did not look quite as modern as the Ghana site in style, but seemed a good source of information.
A panel on the front-page had the latest results from the Africa Cup of Nations, and the email and phone numbers necessary to get in touch with the FA.
Elsewhere, though, it turned out that the information wasn't so up-to-date. Clicking on the link to the national team, for example, produced a page with the historical details of the nation's achievements, rather than news of their exploits in Ghana. By Wednesday morning the results section had still not been updated to reflect Monday's quarter-final victory over Tunisia.
The F.I.F. Côte d'Ivoire have the most old-fashioned website of the four semi-finalists. As I started to bookmark pages for this article, I was horrified to realise I was dealing with frames.
Although the information on the site was up-to-date with the tournament, some elements, like the photo gallery, were concentrating more on the young Olympic team rather than the seniors in action in Ghana.
There was a squad list for the national team, complete with another web technique I haven't seen for a long while - and with good reason. The thumbnails of the squad were not thumbnail images at all, but in fact the full-size image displayed smaller by using the height and width attributes within the IMG tag. The up-shoot is that for each tiny 50 pixel square image, the site was downloading a file about 15 times as big as it needed to, and the images no longer had the correct aspect ratio.
The Ivory Coast site did, though, offer a message board, which it seemed that neither the FA of Ghana or Cameroon did.
The Egyptian FA website defaults to displaying in Arabic, but there are graphical button options to switch to either French or English.
However, I found that the buttons didn't work. At first I thought it was maybe a Firefox thing, but it didn't work when I fired up Internet Explorer either. A quick peek at the source code revealed that there just didn't seem to be any links associated with the images at all.
I tried a couple of searches on Google to try and reach the English version, but with no joy.
It wasn't impossible to review the site, of course, since even with Arabic script and reading from right to left, certain interaction patterns remain the same across the web. I was able to identify, for example, that like Ghana, the Egyptian FA run online votes on their site. The results appear in a pop-up window.
There was a news section that was covering the Africa Cup Of Nations tournament, and a section on the history of football in Egypt with some great vintage photographs of matches and a trophy presentation. These seemed, from the accompanying text, to be from the 1920s, although, with the language barrier, I couldn't be sure.
Football is decided on the pitch, not on the web, so the quality of their respective FA websites should have no bearing on who reaches the Final of the tournament on Sunday. If it was based on the relative merits of their website though, I'd put my money on the hosts and the current champions, Ghana and Egypt, battling it out in Accra at the weekend.