Zambia veteran says pay demands a symptom of African malaise
Rows over bonuses and threats to go on strike may have cost Africa dearly at the Fifa Soccer World Cup in Brazil.
Unless players and officials get their house in order, the continent will forever play second fiddle to the rest of the world.
This is the view of Zambia soccer icon Kalusha Bwalya after Africa’s five representatives at the World Cup failed to progress beyond the last-16 stage.
Speaking on Tuesday after Algeria became the last African side to crash out of the event, Bwalya did not mince his words. ‘‘We must get our house in order,” he said.
‘‘We cannot afford to be talking contracts when the tournament is on. This squabbling about money must stop.
“No African country has ever reached the semifinals and the finals, and we will not unless we act more professionally.”
African giants Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana embarrassingly bombed out in the group stages while Nigeria and Algeria lasted until the last 16.
Bwalya said he was disappointed by all the African representatives, including Nigeria and Algeria. He had been optimistic before the tournament that the continent’s sides would take the fight to their European and South American counterparts.
‘‘Unfortunately, we have to wait another four years to challenge them again,” Bwalya said. “Time waits for no man and for us it is a ticking time bomb unless we change our attitude now.”
Ghana, Nigeria and Algerian players threatened not to play their games unless their bonuses were paid upfront. In the case of Ghana, the cash had to be flown from home in a private jet before they played their first-round game against Portugal.
“We are always in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons,” Bwalya said. “Squabbles cast a dark shadow over our efforts and take the shine away from us.
“We cannot go on to carry this burden. The solution lies with us administrators and players.
“We have to do more as administrators because of our experience, and players must show more commitment.”
The former Zambian skipper said that despite the challenges, African players had the ability to do well on soccer’s biggest stage. ‘‘I have a lot of confidence in African players.
“Most of them ply their trade with big European teams and they need to show the same commitment and respect in Africa as they do for their clubs abroad. We must go back to the drawing board, spend sleepless nights and do better than we have done now before 2018.”
Former Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund said he could not give any particular reason why African teams had failed to reach the finals. ‘‘I am confident that we will have an African team qualifying in the finals in four years’ time,” Igesund said.
‘‘I don’t think that we are not good. For example, most Nigerian players have contracts with top European teams and have acquitted themselves well there.”