Africa’s World Cup Blues

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The 2010 South Africa World Cup has come and gone. But what is the story of performance of the six African teams that participated? Dismal, is one word to describe it.  Ghana  was the only African country that moved  beyond the first round, before the Black Stars, as the team is branded,  lost gallantly to Uruguay in the quarter finals.

This is a terrible story of poor performance by Africa in the last world cup. And this is a continent where football administrators are boasting of improving soccer standards, employing the services of world class coaches and even clamouring for increased number of African teams in the World Cup from the present six.

Other African countries that featured in this world cup were Nigeria, Algeria, Cote D’Ivoire, Cameroon and the host country, South Africa.

With the exception of Ghana, the rest did not do well in the global soccer fiesta. Their story is that they lost almost their matches.

South Africa tried to win one. But their performance did not cheer the country’s citizens even with the services of a Brazilian coach.

There were fears that the early exit of the host country would affect attendance of fans at the football matches. It did not as soccer loving Africans filled each stadium for the matches. The world football body, FIFA, was impressed. Even when former world cup champions such as France, Italy, Germany, England, Argentina, and mighty Brazil were eliminated, South Africans still thronged  the stadia to watch matches. Good testimony against the background of a sad story of Africa’s performance in the football competition.

If South Africans had anything to cheer about their team, Nigerians wept for their national team, the Super Eagles.  The team did not win any of the matches it played at the 2010 World Cup. The story was the same in the qualifying matches for this tournament.

Though the Nigerian team parades an array of footballers that play professional football in European clubs, the team wobbled and only managed to be among the six countries that represented Africa in the 2010 World Cup.

Big money was spent on the team but not much to show for it. The media was awash with reports of the team’s dismal performances on the field of play.  So many blames and criticisms. Oh! It is the players, many Nigerians complained. They are not disciplined. Many of them are unfit to play. Some others charged at the indigenous coach. Crucify him! He is responsible for the woes of the Nigerian national team. Change him!

Still others blamed football administration officials for the falling standards of Nigerian football. The stories about Nigeria’s qualification in the press were dismal.

What is the solution? Get a world class foreign coach, some suggested.

That will be too expensive for the country, beside’s the time is too short for him to do anything, others countered. Let the Nigerian coach take the team to South Africa, they maintained. But something quick had to be done for the Super Eagles to give Nigerians a good story at the world cup.

Football officials jetted to London and hurriedly contracted the services of a Swedish world class coach at a colossal pay. This is a gamble, many Nigerians protested. What can this coach do in four months? They queried. Besides, the cost of his services is outrageous, they argued.

Off to the world cup, the Nigerian team went.  Their story? Bad performance. Condemnations followed. Nobody knew when and how the world class coach left the country. An angry Nigerian president wielded the big stick to save Nigeria’s football. He dissolved the nation’s soccer federation and put a ban of two years on Nigeria’s participation in FIFA organized events.

FIFA was jolted and threatened reprisals if the Nigerian government did not lift the ban. Many Nigerians hailed it, but a good number said the ban is not necessary but welcomed other measures to reorganize the football industry. The President listened to public opinion and lifted the ban. Many are happy but whither Nigerian football?

Another story surfaced. Kidnappers abducted the mother of a top football official, who accompanied the team to South Africa, and was accused of mismanaging the money budgeted for Nigeria’s world cup participation. They demanded big ransom money, or else…. Tension and fear gripped the man’s family as they negotiated with the kidnappers for the release of the old woman. She has just been released. No one knows if any ransom was paid and how much.

The story of how Nigeria’s football will be reorganized is yet to unfold.  A committee to do the job has been set up and expectations are high that members will do a good job. Nigerians expect nothing less than a spectacular soccer surgery because soccer is one unifying factor of this African giant with 140 million citizens. This is the story of Nigeria’s outing at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.


Eric Okeke is a storyteller, editor, business writer, motivational speaker and author of the best selling book: I Want a Husband. He is one of Nigeria’s most experienced financial journalists. He has published several articles in local and foreign publications and in websites such as http://www.ezinearticles.com, www.ezinearticles.com and www.writingcareer.com. He is currently running Infomedia Company, a media consulting and information marketing company. Visit his blog at http://sallywantsahusband.blogspot.com

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