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Feature: Why African countries don't win the World Cup

Published on: 24 July 2014

Ever since the legendary Pele predicted in 1977 that an African country would win the World Cup by 2000, many people have agonized over why, 14 years on, the continent has not delivered, despite an abundance of talent.

There are many reasons for the failure. Essentially, the problems of African soccer come down to the fact that the game is run the way many African governments are run – with indifference, incompetence and corruption. Forget the public good. It is all about taking care of oneself.

Since Egypt first played in the World Cup in 1934, the best Africa has done is reach the quarter-finals. Cameroon did it in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010.

Ghana came close to making history in South Africa, only to be denied further advancement by the notorious Luis Suarez, who used his hand to stop a goal that would have put Ghana in the semi-finals.

Ghana missed the ensuing penalty kick to seal its fate, and Brazil 2014 was a step back as no African country even made it to the quarter-finals.

Africa is failing not for want of talent. The continent has produced some fantastic players who play in some of the best leagues and are household names around the world. Teams like Ivory Coast and Ghana are laden with stars but there is no team spirit.

They falter when it really matters. And they fail because of the poor leadership and corruption of people who run the game, the greed and indiscipline of the players and the short tenure of many coaches. One World Cup and they are gone. They just don’t stay long enough to perfect a winning system.

The big problem is that top officials running African football, going all the way to the continental federation, are often embroiled in corruption scandals that have a corrosive effect on the players.

In Brazil, Ghana’s top football official was snared in a match-fixing sting operation involving plans to fix friendly games. The same official badly botched the country’s World Cup preparation.

Poor organization left the players stranded at an airport for nine hours. Players lost equipment they needed for training. On the 12-hour flight to Brazil, the players rode in the cramped coach section, while the top official, his wife and children, enjoyed a comfortable ride in business class.

And in Brazil, players’ hotel rooms were flooded. One senior player described the World Cup preparation as “a nightmare from start to finish.” Back home after the Brazil misadventure, this official remains in charge. There is no accountability.

The players have their own demons, however. The indiscipline of African players is legendary. Many have been suspended at big tournaments for refusing team orders or abusing officials. The Cameroon team, for instance, threatened to not fly to Brazil in a dispute over bonuses.

It wasn’t the first time. The day before its crucial win-or-go-home game against Portugal, the Ghana players boycotted training, threatening a strike unless they got their bonuses. The government had to rush $3 million cash by chartered plane to Brazil for the players to avert a national calamity. And it is not as if these players are paupers. Needless to say Ghana lost the game.

In many parts of Africa, the days when wearing the national colours was a matter of great pride are gone. Now, it is all about money. When players see officials living large on their sweat, they demand their share or else. But there are exceptions.

The Algerian team reportedly donated its winnings to the people of Gaza. The Greece players refused any bonuses, saying they play for the people. And German midfielder Mesut Ozil used his winnings to pay for surgery for sick Brazilian children.

Until competent and less corrupt officials run African football, and pride is restored to wearing national colours, the continent will not win the World Cup. Time flies and Russia 2018 will soon be upon us. Can an African team win it all? It is possible, but I am not holding my breath.


This article has 10 comment(s), give your comment
  • selfmade says:
    July 24, 2014 09:59 pm
    U are rather a joke! Ghana hasn't been able to win the afcon not because we can't but rather we haven't been able to send our full squad to the competition for the past decades! From 2008 up to 2013, we always send half fit squad because of injuries! Ghana ll win it easily if we send our full fledge squad to the afcon! Even with half fit squad, we been semi finalists consecutively!
  • selfmade says:
    July 24, 2014 10:12 pm
    What's afcon? Check he records and educate yourself! Ghana has not send its hot players from 2008 to now because of injuries! Again, afcon is not a serious toutanment because most of the past winners hasn't been able to qualify to the WC in decades!
  • Benny says:
    July 24, 2014 06:31 pm
    Ghana to win Afcon?a big joke thinking.
  • selfmade says:
    July 24, 2014 02:59 pm
    Ghana ll qualify to the afcon and can even win it with AA! Ghana was the best team in the WC that didn't qualify to the second round and a lot of football pundits even admits that! Ghana, has a better head to head record against all of our opponents in the afcon qualifying group and we ll beat them all regardless of the coach in charge! Togo, guinea and Uganda has poor head to head record against Ghana and history ll repeat itself! We didn't play badly in Brazil and our problems are not the coach but managerial and only sight sighted people can't see it in that way! Ghana, in Brazil, dominated all our opponents even in defeat and our play was not bad as people wants us to believed! Is good that gfa didn't sack AA and I know that we ll come good in afcon 2015! Mark it!
  • kobby L says:
    July 24, 2014 03:14 pm
    Only when corruption is reduced drastically will and African team win it. Until then, do not hold your breath cos u will die while u wait for the near impossible to happen.
  • Reasons why Africa has not won the World Cup just yet | Sokkaa says:
    July 24, 2014 11:39 am
    […] Read more : […]
  • Ansong says:
    July 24, 2014 12:18 pm
  • Benny says:
    July 24, 2014 12:37 pm
    The answer is simple.African's celebrate mediocrity .How on earth can anybody call AA a coach is beyond me and to award him 83% pay rise and two years extension is not only sickening but madness. AA in charge of the black stars is like calling a truck pusher from the market to pilot a plane.Ghana will not even qualify for the Afcon and by that time AA will be £500K rich and will enjoy his life in the UK after all he is dual citizen.
  • Paajim says:
    July 24, 2014 11:30 am
    Why African countries don't win the World Cup. This is an old story, If a father wants his child to respect him and do his will . The Father gives his child what the child want even if it is ward , you try to do a little for your child. So it is when the Greedy,SELFISH and CORRUPT OFFICIAL Mismanage, Cheating the team .They do not need the money for anything, they have thier money,for example Sulley Muntari spent 5000 Dollars on the poor in Brazil and he dose more in his hometown too. Many of these player need this money for projects they have put in thier heads. I ask what about these Corrupt Officials?They enjoy at the expence of the youth now the youth have seen the light they will not sit down for any one to cheat them anymore.On less the officials change thier attitude no African country can win the world cup , Give this youth what they deserve and they will for sure show what is in them and again what they can do to make thier countrys Happy.Poor Organisation,Mismanagment , Lying, indirect steeling, Itimidation and all sort of things faces our youths both at home and outside with these officilas. This world could have come to Ghana easily this was the time An African country could have made a history. Please Think wise and handel correctly and you will enjoy it.
  • Kwabena says:
    July 25, 2014 08:14 am
    I doubt it if we can win the AFCON after more than 3 decades now.Ghana always falters in the 1/4 or 1/2 of this prestigious competition. I think AA should go to Germany for a refresher course otherwise history will keep on repeating itself.