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African football needs to gear up


LEGENDARY Brazilian footballer Pele once predicted that an African country would go on to score the World Cup trophy before the end of the 20th Century.

We are now in the 21st Century and this prophesy has not been fulfilled.

Ask anyone who their favourites are for winning the World Cup and I bet you the familiar countries that will be spawned are Argentina, Brazil, Germany or the Netherlands. Why is such a feat only relegated to European or South American teams? No one ever turns around and picks on an African team like Ghana or Nigeria. It’s not as if to say Africa is without talent.

There is so much home-grown talent which is exported overseas. All the big clubs can boast of having one if not more African players. So wherein lies the problem? Where do we get it wrong? Some will say that there is unfair allocation of places.

But I reckon even if Africa were given more seats we still would be knocked out probably at the qualifying stages. You might call me a pessimist, but I am speaking on the back of demonstrable behaviour of our players.

Often with the games it would appear African teams lack the hunger and drive to win. For the most part our African mates fail to get past the first stage and if they do they are normally knocked out at the semi-finals.

As it stands, it would appear that Africa once again has failed to make its mark at the World Cup. If anything; our presence in the competition has been dogged by controversy and a indiscipline by our players. The first problem is that the players put money before country.

Cameroon is one country that has broken the record in Africa as they have managed to qualify seven times for the World Cup. However, nothing has ever resulted from their qualification.

Then after this World Cup you sincerely begin to believe that they don’t deserve to win anything. It’s reported that they refused to board the flight to Brazil as they were still heckling over bonuses. Surely bonuses should be given as rewards not as negotiating blocks for players to represent their country.

After that dismal showing one can rightly conclude that they did not deserve those bonuses. A bonus should be awarded for sterling performance not mediocre antics on the field. Has money superseded the love of the game and national pride? It’s important to note that the Cameroonian team is an all-star studded outfit.

All except one of the Indomitable Lions play abroad on European teams. So we can safely conclude that these brothers are not starving yet money was put before service to country. Not to be outdone, the Black Stars from Ghana decided to boycott training two days before a crucial match because they had not received their World Cup appearance cash.

Surely representing your country in any sport should instil a sense of pride in oneself?

To be able to stand on the world stage and wear the Cameroonian hat should supersede any bonus consideration. Look, we are not saying the players should play for nothing, but when it comes to such tournaments money should not be the driving concern.

I remember the sense of pride I had during my high school days when I was chosen to represent my school. I never got a chance to represent my country in any sporting discipline, but I can imagine those who do shoulder this responsibility do so with a grave sense of duty.

Think of the last Olympics and how hard we cheered for the Zimbabwe outfit. Sometimes that representation goes beyond country level and is regional and continental. This is why Ghana is affectionately known as BaGhana BaGhana in South Africa.

Sport is one of those few disciplines which has the ability to make us transcend barriers of racism, tribalism and xenophobia.

So when Cameroon, an African team goes and shames us it resonates with every African person. Then to add insult to injury players have demonstrated indiscipline by fighting among themselves as was the case with Benoit Ekotto and Benjamin Moukandjo who had a go at each other.

However, it would not be too bad if it was kept among teammates, but our African brothers have been seen to have a go players from the opposing teams which I clearly see as a bad display of sportsmanship.

If it’s not the head butting and men behaving badly, then we are accused of feigning injury on the field as was the allegations thrown at the Nigerian team. It is clear that if we are going to succeed as a continent we need to up our game.

 Sue Nyathi is the author of the novel The Polygamist. You can follow her on Twitter @SueNyathi

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