“The World Cup is coming to Africa, I can’t believe it. It just makes me believe that anything is possible.”
The words of a female DJ as I listened to the radio in Lesotho just recently. An attitude which encapsulates the wonder many are feeling across Africa, still incredulous that the planet’s biggest sports event is coming to the continent.
To the only continent never to have hosted the Olympics nor the World Cup. Until now that is.
For those living in South Africa itself, the incredulity goes even deeper. Twenty years ago, hosting the World Cup was an impossible dream. Still under the grip of apartheid, South Africa was a pariah state, banned from football by Fifa, and the prospect of playing any match, let alone hosting the world, was a mere flight of fancy.
But now we are less than 20 days away from a tournament which many, including former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, fully expect to change Africa’s poor global standing, broadly known for such negative images as war, famine, HIV/Aids corruption – while the more football-minded simply hope a new playing generation will shine brightly in 10-15 years’ time, as those who grew up inspired by Africa’s first World Cup hit maturity.
“I’m hoping an African side can do really well, perhaps even win it,” says former South Africa defender Mark Fish. “Then we can ask Fifa why we can’t have seven, eight, perhaps even nine teams representing Africa in future World Cups.”
That the World Cup is in South Africa is largely thanks to the efforts of Fifa chief Sepp Blatter and former anti-apartheid activist Danny Jordaan, who has been working relentlessly since 1994 to get the unlikely dream off the ground.
Yet the foundations were laid many years ago. The 1966 World Cup is not the most obvious turning point but that year Africa boycotted the finals in protest at the allocation of one place between Asia and itself at the ‘World Cup’.
The dramatic move, which came exactly 100 years after the continent’s first recorded football match, worked, for Africa had its own representative at the next finals.
1974 was also a significant milestone. Not at the World Cup though, where the maiden sub-Saharan appearance was a disaster as Zaire (now DR Congo) lost all their matches with a 0-14 goal record.
However, the real nadir came when Mwepu Ilunga infamously ran out of the wall to hammer away a Brazilian free-kick, the African champions attracting widespread ridicule for not knowing the rules.
But that year, Joao Havelange used dozens of African votes to win the Fifa presidency off Sir Stanley Rous, and the game changed forever, booming commercially.
The Brazilian had promised the continent its own prizes in return, which came as the World Cup expanded to 24 teams in 1982, meaning Africa now had two places, while Fifa’s inaugural youth tournaments were held in Tunisia (the U20s in 1977) and Nigeria won (what is now the U17 World Cup in 1985).
Had a certain Mr Dempsey not come along, Africa might already have staged the World Cup but Blatter acted decisively following that voting failure in 2000.
One month later, he oversaw the installation of Fifa’s rotation system and one year later, Africa was chosen to start the new policy, which explains Blatter’s rare popularity here.
“We’re very grateful to Fifa and Blatter,” says Fish.
“The journey of African football has been a long one and South Africa, from the apartheid era to the democratic elections of 1994, has also come a long way. Now it’s a massive step to be hosting the world’s biggest sporting event on our continent.”
Africa has displayed its enormous passion for football time and again, and many more tales will emerge during what could be the most colourful World Cup to date. And with the finals providing the greatest 31-day commercial for the continent, pride will swell from Cape Town to Cairo and from Dakar to Dar-es-Salaam.
In a land crippled by nepotism and corruption, football is a rare meritocracy, an area where an individual can rely on his own talents to move up in the world. By coincidence or not, it’s also one of few areas where Africa does not just live with the best but beats them too.
The life story of George Weah, who rose from a Monrovian slum to be crowned the world’s best footballer in 1995, is still an inspiration to many.
Football even had the capacity to briefly stop his homeland’s civil war since Liberia matches in the 1990s would, to quote the current president, ‘bring sudden voluntary ceasefires between the warring factions’ as they joined their enemies to watch the games.
“It is in our hands to unite our country, our continent and the world in a footballing feast,” South African President Jacob Zuma said recently.
Now where’s that damned vuvuzela?
Edwards is with BBC Sports.
21st NSF: Team Rivers Hopeful Of Good Outing
About halfway through the ongoing 21st National Sports Festival, Asaba 2022, Team Rivers is struggling to make impression on the medals table, given that there are still many events on preliminary stages, there is still hope and expectation that the team Rivers would finish impressively on the medals table.
As at press time, Team Rivers has won one gold, two silver and four bronze medals, currently occupying the fifth position on the official medals table, after failing to losing out in three events it qualified for the gold medal rounds yesterday. The State’s athletes had chances to pick gold medals in swimming 50metres Backstroke, 100metres Breaststroke and 200metres freestyle but failed to make any hit.
But speaking in an interview, the Head Coach of Para-tennis, Peter Simeon Ambakaderemo, yesterday at the Stephen Keshi Stadium shortly after one of their events, said he was still optimistic that his team would give the State at least three gold medals.
However, he complained about poor organisation and frequent changing of draws and time.
“Honestly, to me the organisers of the festival are not trying at all because they keep on rescheduling draws that have been made.
It is disheartening to note that Delta State officials meet the referees and change draws and schedules. This has severally caused arguments and fight between coaches.
I have not experienced such a thing before at any sports festival, in fact I am tired of the whole thing,” Ambakaderemo said.
Also speaking, Team Rivers Handball Coach, Loveday Ikiriko, expressed sadness as their male team lost massively to Lagos State 30 – 12 in their first preliminary game.
According to him, there is still hope to clinch a medal before the end of their event, either from the male or female category.
“One of our major problems is that we didn’t prepare on time, we only entered into camping one week to the event and that was not enough for a major festival of this nature.
I plead that arrangement should be made subsequently for us to be in camp early, because in any competition,early preparation is important,” Ikiriko said.
Also speaking, the Head Coach of Shooting, Mary Ikpeamaeze, expressed optimism that her athletes will give Team Rivers at least two goal medals.
According to her, already they had won one bronze medal and some events are still on the way.
By: Tonye Orabere
Kano Pillars FC Appoints New Technical Adviser
Kano Pillars of Kano have unveiled Evans Ogenyi as the club’s new Technical Adviser for the 2022/2023 football season.
The new technical adviser was unveiled at Kano State sports commission hall by its Chairman and acting chairman Kano Pillars FC, Ibrahim Galadima.
He said a total of 31 applications were received from within and outside the country for different positions, among them are five from foreign countries, including three from Africa i.e; one from Cote d’Ivoire two from Ghana and one from Turkey and the other one from Mexico, northern American country as well as Nigerian coaches.
Fourteen coaches applied for the job and one of those interviewed was from Cote d’Ivoire.
“ What the club needs as for now is dedication, commitment and sacrifice is what is needed from the management and technical crew in order to revive the club”, Galadima said.
In his speech, the Kano Pillars FC’s new technical adviser pledged to overcome all difficulties and build on what he met on ground to achieve great results.
Other members of the technical crew are Ibrahim A Musa as coach, Ahmed Garba Yaro Yaro Assistant coach, Gambo Mohd assistant coach II, Abbas Auwalu Sola goalkeeper trainer and Sani Lawan as team manager.
Among many clubs he has managed in the past, Coach Evans was a former coach of Warri Wolves football club, Enyimba FC of Aba, Jigawa Golden Stars, Lobi Star and Nasarawa United of Lafiya two consecutive times.
21st NSF: Nasarawa Targets Top Position
The Commissioner for Youth and Sports Development, Nasarawa State, Amb. Lucky Yargwa, has reiterated that mouth watering reward would be given to any athlete or coach that wins medal at the on ongoing 21st National Sports Festival (NSF) holding in Asaba, Delta State.
He stated that his team will finish within the top ten at the end of the competition, saying that already they have won three medals, one Silver from Para-Table Tennis and two Bronze coming from Taekwondo.
Amb. Yargwa, said this on Saturday while briefing sports journalists at the media centre of Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba.
Nasarawa started to attend NSF in 1998 and in 2021 edition hosted by Edo State, a total of 22 medals: five gold, four silver and 13 bronze were garnered by the state.
According to him, the State is taking part in 27 sporting events at Asaba 2022, adding that they will surpass their previous records on the medal table.
“In all of these sports, we are very confident of surpassing our previous medal records.
“So far, Team Nasarawa has won three medals – one Silver from Para-Table Tennis and two Bronze coming from Taekwondo Events.
“Some of our athletes are already at the verge of winning medals in some sports, and before the end of today, we should have more medals in our cabin.
“But I want to assure you that before the end of the Festival, Team Nasarawa will be among the top ten highest medal winning States.” Amb. Yargwa said.
The number one sports man in Nasarawa state revealed that Governor Abdullahi Sule has redeemed his N16.5million naira pledge to athletes who won medals at the 2021 NSF held in Benin City, Edo State.
By: Tonye Orabere, in Asaba
Opinion4 days ago
Democracy In Nigeria: What Hope For Women?
News4 days ago
Average Kerosene Price Hits N1,041.05 Per Litre
News20 hours ago
Expose Ritual Killers In Iwo, Group Tells Police
Sports18 hours ago
Wike Honours Players, Officials Of Rivers United
Niger Delta4 days ago
Ndiomu Lauds PAP’s First Class Graduates, Others As Admiralty Varsity Holds Maiden Convocation
News4 days ago
Anglican Joint Council Of Knights Backs INEC On BVAS …Commends FG On New Currency Redesign
Maritime19 hours ago
Nine Ships With Frozen Fish, Others Arrive Eastern Ports, Today
News18 hours ago
Monarch Raises Alarm Over Drug Peddlers’ Activities