In a class of their own in the PSL right now and effectively
the number one team in Africa by virtue of annexing CAF's Champions League
trophy, Mamelodi Sundowns' ill-fated campaign in FIFA's Club World Cup in Japan tends paradoxically to expose further African soccer in its entirety.
And for those who
might view this assessment from Sundowns' two defeats in their
two games against Japan's Kashima
Antlers (2-0) and South Korea's Jeonbuk Hyundai (4-1) to be in the realms of an exaggeration, it is as well to be reminded
of the fact that no African nation has as yet progressed beyond the quarter-finals of the Soccer World Cup
and no African club has annexed the Club World Cup either.
Remember too the great Pele's optimistic assertion in
1988 that an African nation would emerge as World Cup winners before the turn
of the 2000?
It has, of course, not materialised in spite of the
Brazilian icon's excitement over the potential talent he believed existed among
This potential does to a considerable degree exist and
this is proved by the notable success of many African footballers like Abedi
Pele, Yaya Toure, Nwankwo Kanu, Jay-Jay Okocha, Samuel Eto'o, Didier Drogba and
Emmanuel Adebayor, who have played
dominant roles in the testing environment of European football.
So a valid assumption is that it is not the playing
potential that is missing in Africa, but the administration of the game and the
calibre of coaching that is available in Africa that remains wanting to some
In order to fulfill their talent to a maximum level, it
would seem, African players still have to migrate to Europe or certain other
countries round the globe.
And so Sundowns failure in finishing sixth among the
seven competing teams in Japan - and, who knows, it could have been seventh if
a match-up had been in place against bottom-of-the-heap Auckland City - tends
to confirm what is a difficult-to-stomach prognosis following the defeats
against two Asian teams who emerged from a continent supposedly with a lot less
talent than their African counterparts.
The elimination of blaise over-expectation, more streamlined, sophisticated and gruelling
coaching routines and administrators whose priority is for the game itself and
not their own egos are areas which need urgent attention before Pele's
prediction is belatedly achieved.
Until then teams embedded in Africa will continue to
taste at the highest level the bitter pill that hit Sundowns with the impact of
a sledgehammer in Japan.