Bleak SWC outlook for Africa

2018-07-01 05:58

Johannesburg - Africa’s dismal performance at the Soccer World Cup in Russia is likely to have serious
implications when continental places are allocated for the next version that will have 48 nations.

This is the view of SA Football Association (SAFA) president Danny Jordaan.

“It is the first time that not a single African country made it to the second round. This could have serious implications for the 2026 World Cup,” Jordaan said on Friday.

“It is a huge blow for Africa. The timing could not have been worse as we will struggle to push for better representation when the issue is decided at the next FIFA congress.”

The motherland was the worst performing continent with all five of her representatives - Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Nigeria and Senegal - bowing out in the group stages, followed by Asia, which also sent five countries with only Japan proceeding to the last 16 stage.

The best Africa has done was the quarter-finals in 1990 (Cameroon), 2002 (Senegal) and 2010 (Ghana).

The five countries will get a total of $6 million (R82.3 million), made up of $1.5 million for qualifying and $1.5 million for each of the three matches they played at the World Cup, plus the $500 000 they were given by CAF to assist with preparations.

Jordaan made a few pointers as to what he thought had led to Africa’s downfall.

“We need to revisit the issue of awarding citizenship to players who have links to our countries. If you look at the Nigerian team, not many play in the domestic league, and some had been awarded citizenship, meaning they were not developed in the country.

“Morocco had four Spanish-born players who are plying their trade in Spain, four of Dutch heritage and five who were born in France. This means three quarters of the team was made up of players who were not born and bred in the country. I’m not sure whether that’s a wise thing to do.”

Jordaan said this had an impact on the passion players had for their country.

“You could see how passionate South Americans are about their countries, from the singing of the national anthem right through the game. You don’t have to look any further than the emotions displayed by Diego Maradona when Argentina played, (and) René Higuita and Carlos Valderrama during Colombia’s matches.

“What about Neymar Jr breaking down and crying after Brazil won? That is the kind of passion that was lacking in some of the Africa players. You could even see (it in) their body language when their teams conceded a goal, unlike the Japan and Korea players, who made it obvious that they were prepared to die with their boots on for their countries.”

He also pointed to the technical side of the game.

“I don’t think our African teams have come to terms with the modern technical side of the game. Our coaches went to the 2010, 2014 and now 2018 World Cups with pen and paper in hand, and very thin technical teams. Africa needs to look at building strong support structures for her teams.”

Asked what he had to say about Bafana Bafana, who failed to even qualify for the event, he replied: “We have acknowledged that that was a huge letdown. As a result, we have put together a plan that will help take our national team to a higher level.”

He said the plan involved:

- Developing quality coaches;

- Structured competitions for junior teams;

- Proper football academies and finishing schools; and

- Proper sports medicine that incorporates a correct diet for players.

“We (Africa) need structured development. We can no longer rely on a miracle generation such as the 1996 Bafana Bafana squad, Ghana’s Under-20 team that won the World Cup in 2009 or the Cameroon and Nigeria generation of players that won Olympic gold medals.”

Asked about recent reports of cash flow problems at SAFA that saw Banyana Banyana not being paid their bonuses for qualifying for the Africa Women Cup of Nations, Jordaan said those were administrative
matters that SAFA chief executive Dennis Mumble had addressed.

Mumble told Power FM two weeks ago: “The cash flow challenges come up from time to time, but that is all in the nature of the game. We are collecting funds from our broadcast partner SABC, and they are struggling and you have to understand. There are challenges at times. But we are not broke.”

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