Feature: World football’s growing chasm with Africa
CITI FM Sports Editor, Godfred Akoto Boafo reflects on the current place of African football within the world game as the FIFA Under- 20 World Cup and Confederations Cup provides a harsh reminder to a football crazy continent…
The past week has been a humbling one for African football as the Confederations Cup in Brazil and the world U -20 Championships in Turkey has thrown up one disappointing result after the other.
The facts do not make for pleasant reading. Of Africa’s four reps at the U -20 World Cup in Turkey only Mali managed to avoid defeat as powerhouses Ghana , Egypt and Nigeria all fell in their opening games.
At the senior level African champions, Nigeria, could only maul lowly Tahiti whilst losing to the Champions of South America, Uruguay and the best team in the world Spain.
It is becoming harder to ignore that in spite of the strides made by African football, the gap in quality is increasing by the year as Europe, South America and Asia continue to reap the benefits of increased investment, advanced youth and coaching policies and long term thinking.
The Confederation of African Football has become a plutocracy whose elite members are interested in their bank balances rather than the growth and development of the leagues they have been mandated to run. Ghana’s Football Association is a replication of most of its friends across the continent.
Youth development is non-existent as colts leagues have been left to their wiles.
Coaching at the most important stage in a player’s development has been left to individuals with a passion yet no skill or training to develop talent.
The Football Association’s contribution to talent development amounts to the distribution of football to all colts clubs once a year. Sadly this trend does not seem to have an end in sight and its repercussions are what we are reaping.
Take Japan and South Korea for instance. Two countries that developed a late interest in football yet have been able to execute a development policy that is unique from each other yet equally effective in producing better, technical footballers equipped to deal with all aspects of the world game.
The rise in the number of Japanese players plying their trade in Europe at a reasonably high standard has increased two fold over the past decade.
Whilst Africa continues to export a high number of Africans, most of them have either become fringe players or compete in substandard leagues. This has affected its national teams who are struggling to impose themselves on the world game.
A look at the Super Eagles of Nigeria at the Confederations Cup showed an interesting mix of foreign and local based players yet its outstanding player on a paramount stage was Obi Mikel, who plies his trade with one of the biggest in Europe and is a product of the European system.
Ivory Coast’s two time African player of the year Yaya Toure shares a similar path albeit from Ukraine.
Ghana’s best players Sulley Muntari, Kwadwo Asamoah and Andre Ayew all spent extensive youth apprenticeships at various European academies. Most African national teams share this trend.
Domestic leagues across Africa have lost the capacity to produce talented players and rounded enough to walk into a major European team or influence the quality levels of national teams at various levels.
Infrequent instances of success like Ghana’s triumph at the Under-20’s in 2009 or reaching World Cup quarterfinals once every eight years is just not good enough for a continent with more football potential than most.
Administrators of African football have to sit up or risk falling even further behind the world.
By : Godfred Akoto Boafo