WOZA2010 – Wither Africa?

Asia 728x90

By Eric Singh, ANA Senior Contributing Editor

“It’s the goals that count” is an old football wisdom that holds water up this day. You don’t score – you don’t win. This was the painful lesson that our continent of Africa had to learn once more when five of our six participants failed to make it to the knock out rounds. This includes South Africa – whose Bafana Bafana now holds the dubious “distinction” of being the only host country not to surpass the round robin stage.

Thank goodness for “Black Stars” of Ghana who will make history if they beat Paraguay in the quarter-finals by being the first African team to make to the semis.

The tournament in South Africa is seen as Africa’s baby. Much was expected from the six participating teams from Africa. Critics are united in their belief that the continent has some of the greatest players in the football world, some of whom are household names. It is not surprising therefore, that the post-mortem on the African performance has begun and the media and other commentators are giving vent to their feelings with no punches pulled.

Speaking to the Associated Press – Neil Tovey, captain of the South African team that won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996 and coach AmaZulu in the Premier League, said: “We all know how talented African players are. They are playing the top leagues of the world. To get it right you need to have a foundation, and I don’t believe the associations involved in African football are as professional as their European counterparts”.

He added, “Seemingly simple matters such as setting up World Cup training camps seemed to vex some of the African teams. And, we always seem to have this history of finding new coaches a few months before the tournament. We run too quickly to get foreign coaches. How can one get to know the culture of a player in such a short time? ”

Just for the record. Of the six African teams that took part in WOZA2010, only Algeria had an Algerian coach. All the others came under the management of non-African trainers. The two Swedes Sven-Goren Eriksson (who took up his post three months before the kick-off) with Ivory Coast, and Lars Lagerbeck (Nigeria); Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira (South Africa); Frenchman Paul Le Guen (Cameroon) and Serbian Milovan Rajevac (Ghana).

This is precisely the theme taken up right across the board. Even FIFA President Sepp Blatter criticised the coaching merry-go-round. Former Kenya coach Jacob Mulee said: “It takes time for a coach to gel with a number of players .Germany and Brazil appointed their coaches four years ago”.

Fellow scribe Alexis Adele is a specialist of the sports daily newspaper Fanion (Ivory Coast). He feels that the fast-paced rotation of coaches is a problem across the continent and points out that Ivory Coast itself has had five coaches, all Europeans, since 2008. He stated: “We hire a coach for three or four months and if the results aren’t good, we send them packing. We hire someone on Monday and we want to be winning by Tuesday. Its not logical. This kind of work takes time.”

Adele picks up the theme which Tovey mentioned earlier, and that is of poor administration. “Political interference is a problem. Those in power control the money, so they think they should be able to control the teams. It is ironic, because they don’t hold themselves to these same standards. They stay in power for decades without much to show for it.”

The critics have also pointed out the lack of depth in most African teams which become disastrous when some mishap faces a team like the red card or serious injury. Having one or two stars does not solve the problem because the core of the squad is made up from local youngsters with very little international exposure, or lower league players in foreign countries.

On the brighter side of the coin, in South Africa itself, it is heartening to know that apart from Neil Tovey, another former Bafana Bafana Captain Lucas Radebe is taking the sceptre in his hand to bring South Africa where it was in the 1990s when it was placed on the 16th place in the FIFA rating. Before the World Cup kicked off – it was ranked 83rd. Despite having seven overseas-based players in its line up, this did not prevent an early departure from the competition.

Kirsten Nematandani, President of the SAFA (South African Football Association) admits that SAFA “took our eyes of the grass-roots” and promised to make emends with the help from FIFA funds which could go a long way to meet some of the deficits that apply to so many African countries.

FIFA says it will roll out about 20 Football for Hope Centres across Africa after the end of WOZA2010 to honour the first staging of a World Cup Final on the African continent This programme envisages the setting up of a mini-pitch otherwise known as a football turf, along with classrooms and health care centres thereby providing the youth with access to counselling, health and educational services. The plan is to have these centres operative by 2012 and work will start in Nairobi, Kenya in the next three weeks, according to FIFA sources.

The same source confirmed that the scheme is being supported by governments and local communities and work is proceeding and people will be seeing these legacy centres very soon. The centres are being designed in close collaboration with the local communities to ensure the infrastructure is consistent with local needs. Football-based activities will be used at the centres to provide and out-of-schooling experience for young people.

Lucas Radebe, who has lent his name to the programme, will be travelling around the continent helping FIFA to set up the centres that aim at leaving a social legacy for the continent. “I think the time has come that football makes an impact in the lives of people. Many of us have become role models through football and many kids are looking up to us so it only makes sense that we are involved in some kind of community developments.

“The centres are emphasising what we refer to as the power of football because with this game you can do anything and what better way to use the power of the sport than investing in community upliftment. I am happy to be part of this”, concluded Radebe.

FIFA’s six official partners – Adidas, Coca-Cola, Emirates, Hyundai, Sony and Visa –have committed to contribute about $500 for every goal scored during the more than 800 World Cup qualifying matches which could result in a donation of about $1million. This will be a great help if the cash is properly utilized and our future sporting generations could be beneficiaries of this great event WOZA2010.

In the meantime, we shall hoot for PHAMBILI* BLACK STARS