As the African Cup of Nations reaches the quarter finals stage this weekend when the remaining teams in the competition, Ghana, Tunisia, Gabon, Mali, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Zambia and Sudan, will battle it out to be one of the last four, tantalizingly close to a shot at footballing glory, the Kenya Forum team (alas a team not that could make it to the tournament) has been wondering: is Africa’s football cup half full or half empty? And is it filling up or leaking out?
Surprisingly, so far we have witnessed, some not so good performances from the finalists in the Africa’s continental cup completion which was dominated by the so called ‘underdogs’, that is apart from the likes of Ghana and Ivory Coast but even the ‘big names’ haven’t been playing very impressive football in the tournament so far, which has left many fans very disappointed.
Two of the ‘favourites’, Senegal and Morocco, have already flown home. Of course other ‘big’ sides such as South Africa, Egypt, Cameroon and Nigeria, never got on the plane to start with.
So one way of looking at it was that this year’s African Cup of Nations was an opportunity for Ghana and Ivory Coast to shine even more, to play even better football because of the fact that they were competing against what are surely lesser teams. Another way of viewing it was the tournament provided an opportunity for the ‘underdogs’ to show what they are capable of. The former hasn’t really happened yet and the latter only in part.
To be fair, the co-hosts Equatorial Guinea and Gabon have done well and played some fairly good football which has seen them progress to the quarter finals but the rest have been generally poor.
The Kenya Forum, together with many other football fans across Africa (and Africans everywhere) hope that the knockout stages will be better than that which we have witnessed in the group stage. We are eager to see some eye-catching and great football from the remaining teams.
AFRICAN FOOTBALL – ‘A DESCENT INTO MEDIOCITY’?
Africa has got plenty of talented footballers and we have seen them performing very well in their respective clubs in Africa and even in Europe but the Forum is left to ponder whether African football is really developing or is getting worse? Is the fact that more ‘underdogs’ are defying their status an indication that African football is getting better and more competitive? Or is the absence of big names a sign that African football is in decline and the teams getting worse?
In an article in the British newspaper The Guardian (‘The Question: is African football progressing?’), Jonathan Wilson argued recently; ‘the fear must be that the increased competitiveness of African football is less to do with the rest (small teams) rising than with the big sides collapsing – that isn’t progress, but a descent into mediocrity.’ It could be the truth or not but he does have a point worth considering.
In the same article Jonathan Wilson made another thought-provoking comment: ‘It even suits the football administrations of the individual countries within Africa to pretend that all is well, that things are developing. Not to do so, after all, would be to admit failure. The myth of Progress is sustained by a conspiracy of the complacent and the self-interested.’
CORRUPT ADMINISTRATION AND POLITICAL INTERFERENCE
Indeed, ‘a conspiracy of the complacent and the self-interested’. The Forum is saddened by the fact that for years, African football has been characterized by corrupt administration and political interference, and saddened too that great talents from Africa have to go to Europe to earn good money. We have all talked about this over and over again with little or no change in the efforts of improving African football.
The Forum thinks that we cannot bury our heads in the sand pretending that African football is making progress. We want to see African teams competing in the highest levels like their colleagues in other continents.
That said, we wish the quarter finalists the best of luck, we are hoping for some great football, and you can bet we will be watching!