The 2010 FIFA World Cup came amid verve and expectation of African teams. It felt so obvious that there would be more than a single African team in the quarter final and at least one in the semis. Actually, it never felt an illusion to imagine one in the final. The world practically came and stole the Cup from Africa.
The story, as known to all by now, is how disappointing the teams were. Ghana received a lot of praise and complements as a well polished African side. People forget that it was the same feeling when Cameroon almost reached the finals in Italy. Significantly, it was 20 years ago. A further 12 years from then, Senegal were a revelation in South Korea/Japan in 2002.
In between then and now, and indeed even before that, African junior teams were beating the blue-lights out of the global football heavyweights. This became part of the reason the continent became pregnant with expectation. The ‘so near yet so far’ feeling was to abide with us for much longer as it is here now.
The obvious fact is that of African players shaping and deciding the destiny of many leagues and championships the world over. Then the corruption and mismanagement by national associations and confederations is an easy and accessible scapegoat. The biggest undoing of the African game is the African professional players themselves. They came to South Africa just for a holiday. These guys will not break a leg for their nations. They have careers to protect, which is great if they pay your rent.
The African Confederation of Football came up with a noble continental concept of home-based players. The overseas professionals are disservicing the continent’s football. This involves only non-professional home-based players, and these have a lot of points to prove. They want overseas contracts. They play matches as their interviews; bas if their lives depend on it.
This is what FIFA must emulate. They must inaugurate the version of local-based players for the FIFA World Cup, if they are as serious about the development of African football as they would like us to believe. Maybe it may not work for other continents, but for Africa and Asia, it will. It is easy to think that the national teams have an option of fielding local based players on their own, but FIFA requires associations to field their ‘best players’ for their (FIFA ) marketing purposes. It is necessary, therefore, to make a deliberate effort to have Africans represented by players who will break, not only a leg, but both, in an endeavour to entertain us and please a potential employers overseas.
A long shot, but this is one of the few ways FIFA can practically help the continent that has given the world so much talent and FIFA so much money. This must be incepted together with the exclusicive use of local coaches who must be regulated to be nationals of the teams they coach, or at least from the continent. This will be a true measure of the world footballing trends and growth, as opposed to the wrong reflections we always see after the big tournaments.
This ‘FIFA World Cup 2’ would take place 2 years after the full version, the same year as the Euro Cup, and replace one term of the Africa Cup of Nations which currently takes place every 2 years. In this case, we would have AFCON every 4 years, the year of the FIFA World Cup proper.