BANG! IT HITS THE BAR: AFRICAN FOOTBALL HAS FAILED TO SCORE

Reflections of a young African boy on the “stunted growth” of football in Africa.

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The quality of both the international and local football competitions in Africa are light years behind that of the rest of the world. The fact that the  Africa Cup Of Nation’s best side over the years, Egypt ( with 7 titles) has qualified for just 2 world cups – the 1934 and 1990 edition says so much about the quality of the competition. Truth be told, the current Confederation of Africa Football champions league winners, TP Mazembe, would find it difficult to compete with their counterparts in other parts of the world, especially South America and Europe, not to talk of qualifying for such competitions as the UEFA champions league, were they a European side .Thus, the Confederation of Africa Football, CAF, founded in 1957, only 3 years after The Union of European Football Association, UEFA, has played a major role in the snail-paced growth of African football.
    
In the 2010 World Cup hosted by South Africa, Ghana played a  quarterfinals match against Uruguay. It was a match watched by the whole of Africa. There was a ray of hope. This Ghanaian team, inspired by Asamoah Gyan were at the verge of breaking the quarterfinals jinx but “almost” doesn’t count. It could be said that Luis Suarez’s hand was the only thing that robbed Africa of her first appearance in the world cup semifinals. How I wish that were true!

Talking about facilities, African football is really lagging behind. As a matter of fact, the role of under equipped stadia in the crawling motion of African football cannot be overstated. In the 2013 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, CAF insisted on using the Mbolemba Stadium for a semifinals match. The pitch was earlier used in the group stage for some matches which triggered complaints by players, coaches and administrators. CAF responded by saying ”plan A is Mbolemba, so is C and B…”, showing their low level of competence. If that happened in AFCON, Africa’s major international football competition, what kind of pitch do you think are used in the local leagues? How can  we call it the beautiful game even when played on such ugly pitches?

Even with these constraints, Africa has two of the four most successful teams in the history of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, Nigeria (with five titles, three time runners up ) and Ghana (with two titles and two time runners up). Mali, Ivory coast and Burkina Faso also have their fair share of success in the competition. Also, in FIFA U-20 World Cup, Ghana, Nigeria, Mali and Egypt have at least reached the semifinals. The question is why can’t this translate to success at the Senior category? First of all, there is a case of fielding over age players, and even when that is curbed, these young players do not get the right development needed for proper transition. Best case scenario is that a handful of them get snapped up by foreign clubs and we get to hear about one or two of them in the near future.

There has never been a dearth of talented players, with Africa producing the likes of Abedi Pele, Roger Milla, George Weah, Kanu Nwankwo, Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba, and so on. It has been the case of a faulty system, producing wrong results. In South Africa 2010, Asamoah Gyan missed that penalty and it was sad, but I fear
we’ve seen the last bang as it hit the bar!!
-Great Oriahi,
   Lagos, Nigeria.
Edited by Franca Ekele Oriahi (Phrankelle)