Only the best teams qualify for the FIFA World Cup tournaments. Then why is Africa that has six representatives in South Africa whining, grumbling and lamenting (if not mourning in advance) that the December 4, 2009 World Cup draws do not favour Africa? Why should Africa (that has participated in the tournaments before) continue looking at herself as an under-dog, a minnow? BETHSHEBA ACHITSA reports.
With so many people drumming up support for the African teams, a climate they are used to it is rather surprising to hear many say that the draws do not favour the six teams representing Africa. One then wonders what teams were many expecting Ivory Coast, Ghana, South Africa, Cameroon, Algeria and Nigeria to play against. Should there be affirmative action that would ensure Africa goes to the finals without having gone through the preliminary matches that differentiate the boys from the men? If Africa fails to achieve the maiden glory that many expect from her it will not have to be about how FIFA has drawn up the pools but because of her own shortcomings.
It is true that drawing Ivory Coast against soccer greats Brazil, Portugal and North Korea reduces the chances of Africa getting to the finals in the tournament. But if the Elephants are giants of the African continent then they should be able to stand up against the teams in pool G and even beat them. All the teams in this group, after all, are all the best their various continents have.
The fact, however, is that many Africans lack confidence in their own teams and that is why they believe that the draw was unfairly done to give an early exit to Africa. African teams cannot gauge themselves against many of the European teams because they over-celebrate their little achievements at the tournament and forget staying focused on the tournament in the years that follow later.
Cameroon is a team that many Africans are not really counting on to win the trophy and the fact that it has been drawn against The Netherlands, Denmark and Japan further justifies the team’s early exit at the tournament. For the last five editions Cameroon has always appeared at the tournament, surprisingly the team has never built on the achievement to stand against teams like Brazil. But, pray, is Japan like North Korea, a soccer nation? Why should any of Africa’s six teams ‘they are the best the continent has’be apprehensive over meeting any team in South Africa?
Nigeria has been drawn against Argentina, South Korea and Greece in group B while the hosts South Africa have a tough task ahead of them as they open their campaign in the tournament against Mexico in group A which also comprises Uruguay and France. The South African team needs to work extremely hard to avoid an early exit. While many World Cup hosts have a pleasing record as soccer nations to show, South Africa has little to show in this area other than their lobbying skills and the Nelson Mandela mystique that cannot play football, let alone win the tournament.
Should none of the six teams win, the teams should however change the situation in Africa by getting over the obvious problems that most teams in Africa claim to be setbacks. With FIFA releasing exciting reward perks to all World Cup participants, the teams should invest the money received into developing sports facilities and also put politics out of the game if they want to avoid their under-dog (nay “victim”) status at future tournaments.
In the 2010 tournament FIFA has increased the prize money from the US$261 Million awarded in 2006 to US$420 Million; the teams that get eliminated after their first round on the pitch will be awarded US$8 Million. The tournament winners will stride home with US$30 Million while the runners up will earn a cool US$24 Million. FIFA is also paying the 32 finalists US$1 Million up front towards preparation costs. Apart from the rewards, FIFA has also set aside US$40 Million and will do so again in 2014 to cater for clubs debts.
As African teams fret over how to make their way to the finals, England is hoping that this is yet another opportunity to make their big triumph at the World Cup after their first win in 1966. England (drawn against Slovenia, United States and Algeria in group C) believe that this is the time to make that big breakthrough to victory once again.