Not this time for Africa! | sports | Hindustan Times
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Not this time for Africa!

An overwhelming number of players in all African squads at this World Cup play in Europe, which has the planet’s best leagues. But by Saturday, most of them will be back home. Dhiman Sarkar writes.

sports Updated: Jun 26, 2010 01:59 IST
Dhiman Sarkar

An overwhelming number of players in all African squads at this World Cup play in Europe, which has the planet’s best leagues. But by Saturday, most of them will be back home.

For over an hour here at Soccer City on Friday morning, the whys, the hows and the way forward were discussed by three legends of African football: Jomo Sono, Kalusha Bwalya and the Senegal-born Patrick Vieira.

Players’ inability to put the collective over the individual, not pulling their weight and leaving it to the stars, changing coaches, not giving their all for the country were some of the reasons given for why the Cup will most likely go out of Africa.

Asked why African players good enough for European leagues can’t play to potential for national teams, Vieira told HT: “It’s quite difficult to understand. Maybe it’s the pressure. When a Drogba or an Eto’o plays at club level, they share the pressure and the spotlight with 15 other stars.”

“When they play for their countries, everybody expects them to win the game by themselves. Sometimes, other players don’t take responsibility, leaving it all on the stars.”

To that Bwalya, a former Zambia and PSV Eindhoven star, added: “A lot of players don’t give 100 per cent for the countries but do that for the clubs where they earn their bread and butter.”

Somo, an ex-South Africa player and, set the ball rolling, saying given the kind of money South Africa put into its preparations, they should have done a lot better.

“We should learn from this World Cup, the importance of the collective."

“There are too many African players who play for themselves. Ghana, who have no TV players, have been an exception and that is why they won the U-20 World Cup,” said Somo, who played with Pele for New York Cosmos.

Bwalya, whose hattrick in the 4-0 win against Italy in the 1988 Olympics helped turn the spotlight on Africa, felt the pressure of being part of the “African World Cup” didn’t help. Neither did holding the African Cup of Nations in World Cup year, a problem since addressed by the Confederation of African Football, he said.

“That led to changing coaches and its normal in Africa that local coaches are only good for the qualifiers. I think it’s diabolical to change a coach some five weeks before the World Cup,” said Sono referring to Ivory Coast’s appointment of Sven Goran Eriksson.

The administrator in Bwalya - he is now the president of the Zambian FA — said this World Cup should serve as a wake-up call and sought an honest post-mortem of this African flop show. The continent’s first World Cup will then be worth it.