The biggest sports event in the globe ended with Germany being crowned champions of the World for the fourth time. Brazil has won the World Cup a record five times, Italy four, while Argentina and Uruguay have won it twice.
Football has been basically dominated by European and South American countries since its inception and the other continents especially Africa have not managed to get to the finish line though they have offered meaningful opposition.
There are three important elements for any successful football team that we can learn as Africans from these football giants to help the continent grow;
TALENT, DISCIPLINE AND LEADERSHIP
Roger Miller – Cameroon legend
Africa is no short of talented and skilful players. From the older generation of Roger Miller to the younger generation like Drogba, Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast), Etoo (Cameroon), Gyan (Ghana), Enyeama (Nigeria) among others.
These players are known worldwide for their skills and have been awarded global recognition for their talents but have failed to help their national teams shine in the same spotlight. The problem that needs fixing lies in the other two elements; discipline and leadership which are crucial in making a great football team.
Majority of African football federations are a joke starting with the overall ‘big brother’ CAF (Confederation of Africa Football). The body is mandated to look into affairs of football in the continent and its certainly sleeping on the job.
To begin with, CAF has failed to show leadership; Football in other parts of the World is a huge business that earns governments billions annually but in Africa both the football associations and individual governments’ don’t seem to be keen in taking it seriously.
THE AFRICAN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
In every continent, there is a club champion’s league where the top teams from each country face off to find one winner. In Europe the competition is called UEFA Champions League and in Africa it’s the CAF Champion’s League (changed to Orange CAF Champions League after a sponsorship deal).
It’s ridiculous to have the champions of the Orange CAF Champions League win $ 1.5 million considering that the winner of ABSA Premiership (the South African Champion league) bags $ 2 million!!
Secondly, the African league is characterised by poorly organised fixtures; CAF has failed to bring the African individual countries and their federations to schedule their fixtures to timelines like UEFA Champions League.
The African Champions League usually begins around January and ends in November, yet most of the African National domestic leagues begin around July, August or September and ends in April, May and June, making the whole event full of confusion.
FIFA dictates that there should be no government interference with the domestic running of football federations but in most African countries, everything must be mixed up with a little and more often than not, too much politics.
A good example is Kenya where officials of the Kenya Football Federation are voted in or out depending on their loyalty to political bigwigs. In most cases, tribalism or money takes centre stage.
Thus majority of the people who are voted in have no idea how to run a football organisation and the end result is the poor performance on the field. Majority of Kenyans are not keen on local football because of the politics involved.
WORLD CUP UNPAID BONUS AND INDISCIPLINE
Ghana team refused to board plane over unpaid allowances
It has become a trend now that every time there is a huge football tournament, African teams threaten to boycott due to unpaid allowances and this year’s World Cup was no different.
Ghana players had to be calmed down by their head of state’s phone call and cash money to play their last group game against Portugal which they lost 2-1. President Dramani made the phone call when the team refused to board a plane to Brazil for a game with Cristiano Ronaldo’s side, following an argument with their federation officials over unpaid bonuses.
Allegedly, President Dramani had millions flown in cash to Brazil to ensure the team did not carry on with their threat to boycott the game risking hefty penalties from FIFA, including a ban for the team in World Football.
There was also drama in the Black Stars squad on the same day when Sulley Muntari and Kevin Prince Boateng were thrown out of the squad for what was termed as a disciplinary action by the coach.
After the game, the head of state ordered an investigation into the matter and replaced his Minister for sports and his deputy. The indiscipline by the Cameroon squad which prompted ‘fights’ among each other begun way before they got to Brazil and spilled into the pitch as well.
The Indomitable Lions had also refused to board a plane to Brazil until the bonuses were improved, forcing the federation to take out a loan to pay them. The team lost all their games and scored only one goal.
Alex Song, the Barcelona midfielder hit Manvudic from behind getting a straight red card. The shame continued when defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto head butted his team mate Benjamin Moukandjo in the game that they lost 4-0 to Croatia.
Following the disappointing results, the Cameroon president Paul Biya ordered his Prime Minister to submit a report on the Lion’s performance in a month.
Nigeria was not left out either and players concerns over bonus payments contributed to a training session cancelled during their World Cup campaign against France which they lost 2-0.
President Goodluck Jonathan had to intervene to assure the players that they would be paid.
Ivory Coast had no reported issues of unpaid bonuses or allowances, yet the ‘Golden Generation’ was eliminated in the group stages. Their coach, Sabri Lamouchi decided to step down after the Greece defeat.
THE MOST MEMORABLE WORLD CUP FOR AFRICANS
Cameroon takes on Argentina in 1990 at the World Cup
Much has been said about African football and even others joking that FIFA means Football Is not For Africa. With all this dark cloud in the African continent, I believe there is still hope if we can work on the leadership of football in Africa.
Though no African team has ever lifted the World Cup trophy, we still have some memories to smile about and I end this article on a happy note sharing the most memorable of African teams in the World Cup arena;
1. CAMEROON IN 1990: the Indomitable Lions sent shock waves across the world when they beat the then defending champions Argentina and went on to top their group. Led by the veteran hero Roger Miller, Cameroon became the first African team to reach the World Cup quarter finals. Unfortunately, lady luck never smiled on them after England eliminated them by scoring two penalties.
2. NIGERIA IN 1994: The Super Eagles qualified for the first time in World Cup. They thrashed Bulgaria 3-0 and then Greece 2-0 in the group stages. Nigeria lost 2-1 to Argentina but still qualified to the knockout stage to meet with the Azzurris. The Super Eagles were leading and were three minutes shy from the quarter-finals but Roberto Baggio equalized for the Italians to force the game into extra time where the Italians scored, eliminating the West Africans.
3. SENEGAL IN 2002: The Teranga Lions came into the competition as underdogs and were not expected to offer any real opposition. Senegal beat the defending World Champions and European Champions France 1-0 but still few critics said it was by fluke. To prove the critics wrong once again, the team beat Sweden 2-0 thanks to a brace from Henri Camara. Unfortunately, luck was not on their side when Turkey knocked them out in the 94th minute, but they made African proud and kept the World entertained.
4. GHANA IN 2010: Many football pundits believed it was African’s turn to shine on home soil (South Africa) and win the World Cup and Ghana came close to be the first team in Africa to reach the semi-finals. Many Africans will not forgive Luiz Suarez for intentionally handling the ball and denying Ghana a 2-1 victory against Uruguay in the quarterfinals. Suarez was red carded as Gyan lost the penalty. The match went into penalties after extra time but the Black Stars lost. The controversial striker Suarez was seen smiling when Gyan missed the penalty which gave Uruguay a ticket to the semi-finals. Ghana and the whole Africa wept but stood proud.
5. ALGERIA IN 2014: The Desert Foxes came back home to a heroic welcome from their country. They simply were the best African team in the just concluded World Cup. They became the first team in Africa to score 4 goals in a World Cup when they beat Korea 4-2. Algeria’s keeper created 2 goal scoring chances for the foxes and was one of the instrumental figures in the team. Algeria qualified for the knockout stages for the first time in their history. Germany eliminated them from the competition but not after a scare. The Algerians had a well organised defence that the German machine were unable to break in 90mins of play. They had to seek help from the super sub A. Schurrle to put them in the lead, the game ended 2-1.
Writer: Mshillah George AKA Coach Azzurri, the team Manager for Ox Football Club Kenya. The club is a brain child of Arsenal Fans in Kenya, the name was inspired by the Arsenal player Oxlade Chamberlain.