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Africa must shape up in World Cup

Ikebesi Omoding

Africa must shape up in World Cup

The WC has brought into the fore the problem afflicting soccer in African countries.

“He is the dog; he will bite again, Luis Suarez’s reprehensible behavior, of biting the shoulder  of Italian defender, Giorgio Ciellini. Her point was that the four-month/nine game ban slapped upon Suarez, by the Federation of Internal Football Federation (FIFA), was more than justified.

He had brought shame and disrepute upon the highly-valued soccer’s World Cup (WC).

Suarez is not alone. The admission by Arjen Robben, the Dutch striker, upon faking a diving fall against Mexico, also shook the soccer world: this one, however, did not merit a reprimand by the international body, happening as it were after the act. There are more unbecoming behaviours by players that have besmirched this 20th, 2014 Session of the WC; and this specifically points to African players and their countries.

Ghana’s Boateng and Sula Muntari insulted and assaulted the officials of their national soccer federation about their unpaid allowances. It brought about the assurances from the Ghanaian president, John Dramani, that he would personally get the payment of more than the $3 million due to the players. Similarly, the Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan Ebeere, too, assured his players that their allowances would be paid.

The same was not forthcoming from, either the Ivory Coast, or Cameroonian politicians. For the team of highly-regarded players of international repute like, Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure, their lackluster last performance was indicative of a sell-out. However, there was nothing to tie this to them.

It is not the same for Cameroon. Their football association is instituting measures to probe into the allegations that the Cameroonian players, specifically, seven of them, conspired to “sell” their games for money. On this issue of money, all the African teams that participated in Rio have been mentioned, except, perhaps, Algeria. But this may be merely because nobody has probed deeper into the activities of their federation.

The WC has brought into the fore the problem afflicting soccer in African countries. Wherever one looks, there is always controversy either in the payment for the players, in the selection of the players for national duty and in the identifying young players that are promising to be drafted into the national teams. There are also institutional requirements in the running of the affairs of the associations that should be looked into as causing controversy.

There are always the issues on holding the games involving the teams that are participating in the local tournaments. This is the question of gate collection for the matches. Often it is the local federation officials who are charged with the collections and parceling out the money to the members of the federation, equitably. This is never done.

The other aspect is the allocation of the money that FIFA usually gives to the national federations for the “development of the sport”.  And this goes to the identification, payment of the players’ allowances when they are going on “duty” to other countries, or even at the local tournaments. Most of the money ends up in the pockets of the country’s federation officials.  And so, there is neither the development of sport, nor the proper payment of players, nor the identification of the proper future players for the development of the sport in the respective countries.

All this adds to the fact that the players are “hungry” when it comes to the international competitions that have a high profile. And where there is a high profile, there is big money and that money comes from, not only FIFA, but also from the local federations and eventually, the national budgets weigh in, because the countries’ politicians will get in on the act of “eating” the money.

And when the local politicians see that there is a good potential of the players bringing “glory” to the country, the politicians want to be very prominent in identifying themselves with the players. They are then seen in photo shoots with the players and appearances in the media.

All these have played into the issues that have eventually raised their ugly head at Rio, in this respective WC. But these issues have been there before in the local federations and in the tournaments and when the players have gone on “duty” in “friendlies” or whatever appearances the countries teams have had to appear in.

The rot has to be tackled right from the countries of origin; that is why the Cameroonian federation is probably on the right track. And correcting this will pave the way towards inculcating discipline among players that will remove the behaviour of people like Suarez.



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Ikebesi Omoding is the acclaimed author of a weekly column titled: From the Outside Looking In

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