Mark Gleeson

Horror week for Africa

2010-10-25 08:48
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
Mark Gleeson

The Soccer World Cup made a massive dent in worldwide Afro-pessimism and came as a huge boost for the image of South Africa and the capability of the continent.

From all the doomsayers there was silence and instead of all the doubt came wide-spread praise for the organisation, the atmosphere and particularly the genuine warmth of the South African people.

Added to that, the run of Ghana all the way to the quarter-finals made for heady times for African football, even if the other sides from the continent disappointed, there has been a real feel-good factor about African football over the past months and plenty of hopes for a promising tomorrow.

Until the last seven days that is.

It has been a horror week for African football, retarding all the advances made by the positive image that South Africa dished up at the World Cup.

First it started with a newspaper sting that has caught four African officials in the middle of a corruption scandal that severely taints the already poor image of sporting administrators.

It also serves to reinforce perceptions that people had before the World Cup about the real purpose most of these people go into football, to line their pockets rather than serve the game.

Then later on Sunday there was a dreadful goal in the African Champions League semi-final that smacks of cheating.

Of course, that is an unproven allegation, but go to YouTube and have a look for yourself how Esperance scored the all important goal to qualify for the final of the biggest club event in African football.

Then ponder whether the apparent blindness of the officials, and whether it just plain incompetence or something more sinister.

To have that happen in the semifinal of a most prestigious event is another blow.

Then there has been the release of a 28-page report “Killing Soccer in Africa”, which details further excesses and corruption and alleges FIFA has little willingness to try and clean it up.

And worst of all, the death on Saturday of seven people in stampede to get to a game in Nairobi, yet another senseless loss of life on a continent where these tragedies happen all too often.

Indeed, stadium deaths in Africa have been mounting, not receding, in recent years, despite FIFA promises about better security and training.

Only last year there were 22 killed and more than 100 injured before a World Cup qualifier between Cote d’Ivore and Malawi.

Before that, Chililabombwe in Zambia in 2007 and Conakry in Guinea the year before, deaths in Tiogo and Lubumbashi, and in 2001 the horror of at least 123 dying in Ghana.

That was just one month after our own Ellis Park disaster. Officials profess to have learnt lessons and promise to make sure it never happens again, but it always does.

What irks is how the true passion and feeling for the game, as shown by Africans in June and July, is trod on by self-seeking administrators.

Football needs to find effective way to root out people who seek not to serve the game, but themselves.

Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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