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Amid the pay chaos, Africa countries makes 2014 World Cup history

Published on: 28 June 2014
Algeria's bench players run onto the pitch as they celebrate after the group H World Cup soccer match between Algeria and Russia at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, Thursday, June 26, 2014. With Algeria and Russia playing to a 1-1 draw, Algeria qualified for the knock-out stage.

Somehow, amid the chaos, Africa has made history at this World Cup.

Look past the bonus disputes and strike threats, and a plane apparently landing in Brazil with bundles of cash to keep an unhappy squad playing, and it's notable that Africa has two teams in the last 16. That, by African standards, is a rich return.

Nigeria and Algeria will represent the continent in the second round in Brazil. It might even have been three teams if not for a hotly-disputed penalty in the dying seconds of the group stage that denied Ivory Coast progress. Never before has more than one African nation gone through at one World Cup.

Africans are always searching for signs that their continent is truly ready to be a regular force in global football. It's difficult to tell if this is really one of them. Because while Africa is getting better organized on the field, it seems to be getting much worse off it.

Of the five African teams in Brazil — Nigeria, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Cameroon — three of them have had their World Cup campaigns seriously affected by pay problems.

"It is sad that we end up with such a story," FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke on Friday said about Ghana's players threatening to boycott a match this week over unpaid bonuses.

Ghana, a quarter-finalist in 2010, had to go as far as flying hard cash in on a plane to keep the players committed to the decisive group game against Portugal. Cameroon's squad had refused to travel to Brazil until their demands for better bonuses were met. African champion Nigeria, days from its first knockout game at the World Cup since 1998, canceled a training session on Thursday to talk about money.

The pay is seriously distracting from the play.

The problem is not new to African teams — it happened with Togo at the World Cup in 2006 — but it's happening more often now, often enough for FIFA to take notice. At the core of it is a lack of trust between players and their national federations that what is promised to players before a World Cup is actually delivered after it.

For Ghana's players, stars of the last tournament in South Africa, it became a case of 'show me the money' in Brazil.

FIFA was on the brink of giving Ghana an advance on its $8 million in prize money to pay its players their agreed appearance fees before the West Africans said they found another last-minute solution involving a chartered plane and a lot of cash from back home.

FIFA will look at ways of solving this problem ahead of the World Cup from now on, Valcke said.

"What we have to do for future World Cups is to make (sure) that firstly there is an agreement between the players and their national associations for the payments of bonuses," he said.

Maybe it is time for FIFA to intervene because away from the cash chaos, African teams, with the exception of Cameroon, have been competitive at this World Cup.

Nigeria qualified and was impressive in the way it kept coming back at Argentina, one of the favourites, in a narrow 3-2 loss.

Algeria's attacking style has drawn praise and found reward with the North Africans reaching the second round for the first time.

Ivory Coast was unlucky to lose to Greece via that contentious late penalty. And Ghana completely unsettled Germany with its pace and power in a 2-2 draw before money got in the way ahead of the Portugal game.

Other countries see plenty of evidence of Africa's on-field progress. France is expecting a stern test from Nigeria when they meet in the knockout stage on Monday as African teams add tactical know-how to their natural talents.

"African teams have always had physical impact and speed," France midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin said. "Over the last few years they've improved tactically. They're good teams with a lot of quality."

Defender Bacary Sagna said African teams "are evolving as every team does. They're learning an awful lot."

But are they taking heed of other lessons?

Last year, Nigeria's football federation was severely criticized at home and an investigation was opened after the squad arrived days late in Brazil for the Confederations Cup because players were arguing with officials over pay.

Early on Thursday — a year on — Nigeria captain Joseph Yobo said in a statement meant to calm fears of similar problems at the World Cup: "We have reached this stage of the tournament, which is a special privilege, and we cannot afford to let the whole of Africa and especially Nigeria down. So please ... allow us to focus on our football and nothing else."

Hours later, he and his squad were locked in a meeting talking about money when they should have been on a training field preparing for Nigeria's first knockout game at a World Cup in 16 years.


This article has 8 comment(s), give your comment
  • OGYA says:
    June 28, 2014 07:50 am
    Please GSN, give us a break. I don't care about Africa. I don't care about Nigeria and Algeria. As far as I am concern, I want them to loose. There is nothing to be gained by supporting them so stop writing about them. Its Ghana or nothing for me. Call me selfish. Africa don't feed Ghana, Nigerians do not wish our success neither do Algeria. I am just rooting for them to crash out, its all a matter of time. That idiot Ashanti or Brong Ahafo guy has disgraced Ghana and I am fuming as hell. I hope that munchkin is removed as the coach of the Ghana Black Stars. You keep talking about Nigeria at this Ghana website? you are out of your fucking mind. When Ghana was doing well four years ago there was not a single story about Ghana on any of the Nigerian Sports sites so stop annoying us and write only about Ghana. Let me tell you GSN if you do not stop annoying us, some of us are capable of creating a better blog than this about Ghana. You are becoming arrogant in your news collection thinking you have a captured audience? think twice. At this time Ghanaians are pissed of so if you continue to annoy us I will use my software Engineering skills to put up another Blog very sensitive to the feeling of my fellow Ghanaians with better writers. Keep on joking and your blog will soon loose its audience.
  • jax says:
    June 28, 2014 08:38 am
    its all about the money..btw this guys are the main actors in the field, i see no reason y some greedy men will just seat on their cash without doin anytin.
  • jidoo says:
    June 28, 2014 10:32 am
    @OGYA, na bad belle go kill u, 9ja n Algeria are in the 2nd round PERIOD. Am enjoying some Ghanaian pussy here in Accra.
  • Truth hurts says:
    June 28, 2014 03:32 pm
    @OGYA,who cares about just one foolish support from you? With or without you doesn't mean they will or will not win the world cup. If you listen to NIGERIA'S radio stations,you'll see the support we give all african teams,especially ghana,being our african bros. Whatever happens in the next games,the fact remains they're a step futher than Ghana period. Tht's the history. The support back home from 160mn ppple is enough. We don't anymore. Our voice alone is even enough to drain the whole of Africa. Viva NAIJA!!! The GIANT of Africa.
  • Truth hurts says:
    June 28, 2014 03:39 pm
    One more record. Stephen Keshi is now the first black african to qualify a team to the second round. And also Nigeria has now scored the most goals in total for african countries at the mundial nice one. For the doubters, check fifa website.
  • OGYA says:
    June 29, 2014 08:27 am
    No matter what Nigeria is about to crash out. The end is near for Nigeria. Count my words. BYE BYE BYE BYE BYE NIGERIA
  • OGYA says:
    June 29, 2014 08:27 am
    o matter what Nigeria is about to crash out. The end is near for Nigeria. Count my words. BYE BYE BYE BYE BYE NIGERIA
  • OGYA says:
    June 29, 2014 08:28 am
    o matter what Nigeria is about to crash out. The end is near for Nigeria. Count my words. BYE BYE BYE BYE BYE NIGERIA