2 February 2018 – “An African nation will win the FIFA World Cup before the end of the twentieth century”. A famous quote in 1977 by legendary Brazilian footballer Pele. Unfortunately, this premonition was proved to be incorrect, but not for a lack of effort.

Cameroon’s magical showing (inspired by talisman Roger Milla) at the 1990 World Cup in Italy, is a case in point as they became the first African team to reach the quarter-final stage, followed by Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010).

However, has Africa kicked on enough from such achievements or were they indeed false dawns? I believe it ultimately is a little bit of both. There are many positives that are associated with African football but at the same time, more can be done to improve certain areas.

Also, there are other key performance attributes, indicators, factors and variables to consider other than mere World Cup results i.e. General Development; Administration; Women’s Football and Individual Talent.

The game was first played on the continent in 1862; historian Peter Alegi stated that it “spread very quickly through the mission schools, the military forces and through the railways.” The first African team to compete in a FIFA World Cup was Egypt in 1934 and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) was founded in 1957. South Africa then did the continent proud by becoming the first African country to host a World Cup in 2010.

In terms of general development and administration, the continent continues to strive hard, implement decent structures and achieve noteworthy goals. The development project ‘Win in Africa with Africa’ was launched by FIFA following the 2010 World Cup, with a budget of almost forty million US dollars, by supplying fifty-two countries on the continent with FIFA-standard high-quality pitches. They have also developed a program named ‘Goal’ which revolves around infrastructure and technical centres. Also, there are courses run to assist coaching, refereeing, administration and medical aspects.  Grassroots development is extremely important too.

However, are African nations and their own bodies doing enough to stimulate development? Sadly, most initiatives are in place for political and economic gain. Mal-administration and corruption are still rife. This mind-set needs to change if Africa wants to improve overall development and enhance administration.

Women’s football in Africa has come a long way considering that a few decades ago, not many countries had even considered forming a Women’s national team. South Africa led the way in the 1960s by trying to form various women’s clubs and by the 70s, many matches were being played across the country and this caught on in other nations such as Senegal. The Africa Women’s Cup of Nations was then started in 1991 and is now sponsored by giants ‘Total’. It also serves as a qualifying tournament for the FIFA World Cup but with too little cash on offer.

South Africa’s Hilton Fran Smith stated: “Make it a yearly event, not every two years, and the organising of the women’s club championship – where the best clubs in each country can compete like the men’s [Caf Confederation Cup and Caf Champions League] – for attractive prize money. FIFA gives CAF a lot of money for the development of women’s football which should be used to support national teams, leagues and continental women championships.”

When it comes to individual playing talent, particularly in the men’s game, Africa competes with the best! The likes of Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto, Asamoah Gyan, Kevin Prince Boateng, Mohamed Salah, Benni McCarthy and Yaya Troure, have all excelled at the highest of levels and were sought after by the best clubs on the planet. Africa must be doing something right.

By: Dhirshan Gobind