In the three decades I’ve covered African football, I have gone through the entire gamut of emotions: exhilaration – over some of the continent’s great moments at the Africa Cup of Nations and the World Cup; frustration – over the comedic errors our football governors repeatedly make; and deep despair, as one continually questions whether the custodians of a game that means so much, to Africa’s one billion people, will ever live up to their responsibilities and do their darned jobs diligently.
Insideworldfootball columnist, Osasu Obayiuwana, a member of the now dissolved FIFA Task Force Against Racism and Discrimination, shares his personal experiences and disappointment with FIFA’s half-hearted attempt to address racial and discriminatory issues in football.
Any journalist with experience of covering the Africa Cup of Nations knows it is not a particularly easy assignment at the best of times, as the lack of adequate telecommunications, transport and hotel infrastructure in several host nations often makes the three-week tournament a test of resilience and fortitude.
A sad, very disturbing, fact remains constant, over the decades I’ve covered the African game, which is fuelling my deepening pessimism about its future – the ruthless cultivation of a reactionary climate that is extremely hostile to the desperately needed transformation of CAF, the continent’s governing body, into an organisation that will finally command the genuine respect of the global fraternity and use its political capital in the interests of those it ought to primarily serve.
When it comes to the August 26 elections for the presidency and executive committee of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) – if they actually happen on that day – it is evident, to keen watchers of its politics, that the more things change, the more they remain the same. For the fourth successive NFF poll, since 2005, Africa’s most populous nation is caught in the whirlwind of chaos and anarchy that typically accompanies the battle for control of the game’s administrative levers,
With two African teams making the knockout rounds in Brazil, the continent has obviously written a new chapter in tournament history.
Ever since Morocco became the first African team, at the 1986 finals in Mexico, to reach the Round of 16, the continent has maintained a solitary presence there.
Considering that I had, in a previous piece, seriously considered the possibility that its five teams were at risk of being knocked out in the first round,
With the World Cup in Brazil being the first in which Goal Line Technology (GLT) is used, to ascertain whether a ball has crossed the line, its effectiveness – and using similar aids, to reduce other refereeing errors – will certainly be a regular talking point.
And not just amongst fans, as the animated conversation between Didier Deschamps and Luis Suarez, the managers of France and Honduras, over Les Bleus’ second goal, in their 3-0 win in Group E,
So, the world is surprised and shocked by what informed followers of the African game and its politics have known, through the grapevine, for ages – that Mohamed bin Hammam, the former president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), spent significant sums of money to create a sphere of political influence amongst the continent’s federation presidents.
The spread sheet and emails published by the Sunday Times of London, revealing the sums spent on lavish Qatari and Malaysian vacations for several FA chiefs,
As we edge closer to the start of the World Cup finals, my thoughts have nothing to do with the usual questions, like which team is likely to lift the trophy or the players that will distinguish themselves in Brazil and earn a deserved place in the tournament’s pantheon of legends.
What has preoccupied me is the consistent fury of working-class and under-privileged Brazilians, about the money being spent on hosting the World Cup.
Next season is going to be extremely interesting for second division French side Clermont Foot.
Appointing Helena Costa, a 36-year-old Portuguese woman, as its new manager, the club has certainly crossed a gender frontier.
The first female to be put in charge of a male football club in France – and any first or second division side in Europe, for that matter – Costa is certain to receive a level of global media scrutiny that even she might be surprised with.
With Real Madrid and their noisy but vastly improved neighbours Atletico, earning well-deserved places at this year’s UEFA Champions’ League final in Lisbon, the fraternity looks forward to what is certainly going to be a keenly contested encounter.
But as Europe’s – and undoubtedly the world’s – leading club tournament grows in competitive and commercial strength, certainly helped by the huge global audience it continues to pull, it is a telling reminder, to African club football,
When Liberia’s George Weah became the first African to win the FIFA World Player of the Year title, in 1995, many thought that it was going to be the first of many for the continent’s players.
With their ascendance and growing impact in European club football – which, fairly or unfairly, remains the yardstick for picking the best on the planet – it was taken as a given at the time.
But nearly 20 years have passed since the former AC Milan forward earned the game’s top individual award and it does not appear that another African will be following in Weah’s footsteps anytime soon.
When UEFA and its member countries take a decision to fundamentally restructure the way in which international football, within its continent, is played, it ought not to concern the rest of the global fraternity.
What European football does within its borders is, in principle, their prerogative.
BUT – and this is a big but, obviously – when a continental decision is taken without any cognisance of the effect that it would have on the WORLD game,
Since Mexico ’86, when Morocco’s Atlas Lions became the first African side to reach the second round at the World Cup finals, the continent has managed, in the six tournaments that have followed, to maintain an unbroken presence in the knockout stages.
But on the seven occasions that an African team has reached the second round or the quarter-finals, the managers at the helm have come from every other part of the world except –
When a World Cup host is found to have been involved in match-fixing, not just once (as if that’s not bad enough) but several times, any right-thinking person, concerned about the integrity of the game, would assume that confronting this heinous crime against our sport would be a priority matter.
As Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s secretary-general, repeatedly puts it “match-manipulation is the biggest threat to the game today.”
Unfortunately, the investigation into South African football –