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Is African football missing the goal?

Posted On Friday, 15th February 2013

Fans at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations

Less than three years after it hosted the football World Cup, South Africa is once again in the spotlight. This time, staging the Africa Cup of Nations – the continent’s biggest sporting event.

But can this tournament boost the image of African football abroad?

South Africa already has many of the facilities needed to host these types of events, because it invested billions of dollars for the World Cup in 2010. A report on that spending, which was released in November, says:

  • South Africa spent more than $3bn during the tournament
  • Just over $1bn was spent on building and upgrading stadiums alone
  • Some of those stadiums have been underused or are losing money
  • Around $1.3bn dollars went to improving roads, rail and air links in the country – money the government says has had a long term impact for ordinary South Africans

There are no definitive figures on how much South Africa earned from the event, but the report said the World Cup left an intangible legacy and changed the country’s international image.

Some people remember Cameroon’s World Cup run in 1990 as the moment when African football burst on to the world scene, and they became the continent’s first team to reach the quarter finals.

But in the last few years, it feels like football has stagnated. Barely a handful of African teams have made it past the first round in a World Cup since then.

Still, the World Cup in South Africa was a boost to African pride and it also saw Ghana get through to the quarter finals.

As the Africa Cup of Nations now comes to a close, all eyes are on Burkina Faso and Nigeria who will play for the right to be named champions of Africa on Sunday. They earned their place in the final after beating tournament favourites Ghana last week.

Nigeria’s much praised performance at this tournament brought back memories of its glory days during the 1990s, when the team dominated African football.

For rank underdogs Burkina Faso, this is only the second time they have made it past the first round. So getting to the final in itself was a great accomplishment, although they will certainly be looking to go all the way on Sunday.

But away from the action on the field, there are plenty of other winners and losers.

While top European clubs are constantly on the search for the next undiscovered talent in African football, there is a dark side to the rise of the sport in Africa: a growth in the trafficking of young men trying to make it professionally, many of whom are tricked by agents and end up living on the streets of Europe’s capitals.

So, has African football improved since South Africa brought the World Cup to the continent in 2010? Is football heading in the right direction, or is the game stagnating in Africa?

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READERS COMMENTS

  1. De Ghana Man says:

    Positives and negatives:

    Negatives:

    Local FAs still not transparent or corruption free.

    Still a lack of consitent standard of infrastructure across all African footballing nations.

    Trafficking of young players.

    Lack of local coaches leading full national teams.

    Positives

    Many African players are now core to top sides in Europe just take a look at BS with Atsu and Kwadwo Asamoah.

    The level of the “2nd tier” (Sudans, Zambia, Mali Burkino Faso etc) has improved.

    African countries consitently in top 20, (2 at the moment).

    Yes, it not perfect and the corruption of local FAs I think is a big (in fact the biggest issue) but the continent is moving forward, maybe not fast enough but it’s moving.

  2. mulondwe muzungu says:

    Don’t get it twisted there are no 2nd tier teams. Except for Sudan all the teams you have mentioned are much better than your much decorated team. Mali has beaten you clean in consecutive AFCON tournaments. Burkina Faso outplayed you despite the dodgy decisions by the ref who was clearly biased and Zambia no need to mention it have a better head to head record. Get your head out of your A.S.S





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