It’s Africa’s turn to take over

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The African Nations Cup is picking up steam in South Africa after a sequence of dull draws in the first round. Tunisia have set the tone for an exciting tournament with a thrilling win against Algeria in Group D thanks to a majestic last-gasp goal from Youssef M’Sakni. The Bafana Bafana warmed the hearts of home fans with a 2-0 victory over Angola on Wednesday.

The Nations Cup is not in the league of the European Championship to stir interest across the globe but it can’t be ignored altogether. Apart from athletics, if there is one sport in which Africa can compete with the rest of the world on equal terms it is football. The beautiful game’s inherent democratic nature is its biggest plus. Pele had been talking up African football for a long time but the legend’s prophecy that a country from the Old Continent would win the World Cup hasn’t come true yet. African teams were a disappointment when the World Cup came to their continent for the first time in 2010. Barring Ghana, whose place in the semifinals was denied by the width of the crossbar, no other team played to its potential in South Africa.
Africa is rich in talent. Every top club side in Europe is adorned by African players. Didier Drogba, the icon from Ivory Coast, is one of the most recognisable faces in the world. The contributions of his compatriot Yaya Toure were critical to Manchester City’s triumph in the EPL last season. Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon who has a collection of glittering trophies is probably the highest weekly earner in football. Exciting new faces emerge from every corner of Africa regularly. Qualification for the World Cup from Africa has never been tougher. Football is a rage all over the continent, the athletics-obsessed countries not excepted.
What, then, has prevented Africa from winning the World Cup? Administration and Africa aren’t made for each other. Football associations across the continent are run without a modicum of professionalism and democracy. Feudalism reigns in administration and dictators abound. Pay disputes between players and associations are as common as salt in sea water. Infrastructure is deplorable. Entrenched administrators are only interested in protecting their positions. National coaches are hired and fired indiscriminately. There is an innate mistrust about African coaches in the continent. No country has ever won the World Cup with a foreign coach but importing European coaches for the World Cup is an unwritten rule for African countries. Europe owes its excellent record at the World Cup to its superior planning and organisation. No team can win the biggest prize in football with chaotic administration at home.

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