Football and Africa
With the last of the group games played, it is safe to say that this World Cup will not be Africa’s World Cup as was said by many commentators beforehand, including a certain Sepp Blatter. His organisation is said to make around €3.3bn from this World Cup. None of the money will stay in Africa.
All but one African team are going home after the group stages. Like 2006 Ghana are keeping the flag of the African nations flying. While last time they came up against Brazil and were soundly beaten, this time it will be the US Boys and chances are looking good that they will progress to the quarters, which would be some progress. Unfortunately this can’t be said for the other African teams that competed in the tournament. It appears that most teams indeed did take a step back instead of forward. There will be questions and the answers appear rather simple.
Most of African players earn their money in Europe, where they are playing between 30 or 40 games per season at least. Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon probably topped the 50 games mark quite easily. His club, Inter Milan, won the Italian League, the Cup and the Champions League. However, this applies to almost all players at a World Cup as they are their nation’s best players and thus play European football on a regular level and could therefore not be cited as an excuse.
The only other reason that comes to mind is that players from Africa suffer from a tournament overload as they play two big tournaments in a World Cup year. That’s right. In January they play the African Cup of Nations. Ghana were beaten by Egypt in the final, so without a doubt they are Africa’s best nation. Two tournaments in which each game is considered a Cup Final cost energy, not just physically but also psychologically. After the tournament in January players come back to their clubs in Europe to return to a grinding schedule of League, Cup and European competitions. Injuries picked up during one competition might not given time to heal properly and thus may weaken players if not ruin their seasons, at the end of which there’s is another competition for at least two weeks. Players start games unfit if they are able to play at all. This minimizes their chances if it doesn’t ruin them entirely.
This is not a call for any actionism or pointing the finger at those possibly responsible or hinting at possible solution for this problem. This is rather a thought that crossed my mind over the past fortnight of watching football to point out that something has gone seriously wrong in the development of football in Africa over the last four years. Not this piece but the signs of development going the wrong way should set some alarm bells ringing in those quarters governing the game.