With Pele’s prediction that an African team would win the FIFA World Cup™ by the end of the last century having proved wide off the mark, Africans are desperate for the continent’ first finals to witness a meaningful achievement. Many see a semi-final place for one of the African contenders at South Africa 2010 as an absolute must, especially with the backing of a football-mad people that are sure to support their home side first and any other African nation second.
Considering that Cameroon at Italy 1990 and Senegal at Korea/Japan 2002 are the only African sides to reach the quarter-finals of the world’s showpiece football event and that no FIFA World Cup has ever had more than one African side in the knockout rounds, it seems a tall order. And while there is no doubt that the continent has continued to produce some of the world’s best players, the inconsistency of its national teams has left many scratching their heads.
However, typical of Africa, optimism somehow triumphs in the face of any odds, and many legendary figures, past and present, have gone on the record predicting success. For current players, the idea of lifting the spirits of the continent’s people to the level of ecstasy is the ultimate. “My team-mates and I want to make history and want to change the way the world sees African football. I hope that we’ll be the team that is going to go to the Final and win the competition,” said injury-worry Didier Drogba, who may miss the tournament with a broken arm, but who captains what many consider to be the most talent-laden side on the continent.
Ghana legend Abedi Pele has also been in bullish form, hinting that there is a good chance for ultimate glory in the Final on 11 July. He is, however, also careful to insist that, at such a difficult event, in which the draw was not particularly kind to the African hopefuls, performance may matter more ultimately than advancement.
“It’s going to be a very tough tournament for the African teams,” Pele, who has two sons – Andre and Rahim Ayew – on the current Ghana team, admitted.”They have tough groups and it’s not going to be easy for them to get out. There is a theory that says this is the best time for an African team to win the tournament – maybe that is true. We will have to wait and see, but whatever happens, I think our teams will do us proud.”
Pele no doubt has in his mind the success of his home country at the end of last year in the FIFA U-20 World Cup, when they broke through to become the first African winner of the competition. Many of those impressive youngsters have worked their way into the Black Stars side and shown at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year in Angola.
Another team on the up are South Africa, who have not lost in 12 matches, and are hitting peak form at just the right time under veteran boss Carlos Alberto Parreira. And the hosts of the FIFA World Cup typically get a huge boost from their home crowd, which will surely be the case for Bafana Bafana. South African great Lucas Radebe sees potential for the hosts to reach the semi-finals, but he also stressed that how far the African teams advance is not the ultimate measure of success.
“This World Cup is not only about football, it’s about Africa reinventing itself,” said the former Leeds defender. “Of course we want success on the field, but at the same time, we would like to see this event a success off the field. We want the world to trust Africa, we want everyone to know that we are capable of organising these events. After July 12, everyone should be proud of being an African.”
For the first time, Africa has six teams at the finals, and two of the continent’s sleeping giants will be there desperate to make an impact. This will be Cameroon’s sixth FIFA World Cup, but the Samuel Eto’o-led side have failed to make a significant impact since 1990. Nigeria are playing in their fourth finals, but they have also disappointed since reaching the second round at both USA 1994 and France 1998. However, some shaky friendly results and an injury to central midfield lynchpin John Obi Mikel has hurt the Super Eagles, while the Lions of Cameroon have also been inconsistent in their warm-up matches.
Algeria are considered the biggest outsiders of the bunch, but the Desert Foxes proved themselves wily and cool customers in qualifying and at the last CAF Africa Cup of Nations, where they finished fourth. For all of the African teams, the difficulty of the groups are such that none can be considered favourites to advance, but the potential would seem to be there for almost all of them to find form and embark on a creditable run.
“We are in a different and better position than previous tournaments, and I think we are better prepared,” Kalusha Bwalya said recently. “We have the confidence and experience, and I believe our teams now believe they can achieve success at this level.”
Delta Insists To Host Best Ever NSF Opening Ceremony Nov 30
After months of preparations, the 21st National Sports Festival tagged Delta 2022 will finally begin on November 30, with the State government insisting on delivering the best ever Games in history of Nigeria sports.
With two brand new indoor sports hall, a new swimming pool, new tartan track, new shooting range all within the Stephen Keshi Stadium as well as new hockey pitch at Okpanam and new hostel facilities at the NYSC camp at Issele-Uku, the Secretary of Local Organising committee (LOC), Chris Anazia declared yesterday that Delta would leave a legacy that will be difficult to surpass in the nearest future.
“Whenever Delta agree to do anything, we always go for the best,” Anazia said. “We are not just going to host a sports festival, but the best ever in the history of the Games. I am sure by the time the festival ends on December 10, all Nigerian athletes and officials will praise the government and people of Delta State for a job well done.”
Apart the hostel facilities being put in place at NYSC camp at Issele-Uku, headquarters of Aniocha north local council, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa is also building hostels in some schools in Asaba to serve as accommodation for the athletes.
According to Anazia, arrival date for State contingent in November 28 and 29, while the opening ceremony will hold on November 30.
Meanwhile, the Adviser to the LOC, Chief Solomon Ogba, has revealed that the Festival Torch of Unity, which has been moving round the country will arrive Delta State on November 28, and will travel round all local government headquarters for chairmen and council officials to have a feel.
Ogba, a former Sports Commissioner, ex-President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) and currently the First Vice President of the Nigeria Olympics Committee (NOC), stated that the Festival Torch of Unity would arrive Asaba on November 30, the day of the opening ceremony.
U-23 AFCON: Bosso Invites 40 Players To Camp
The Head Coach of the U-20 Boys’ National Team, Isah Bosso, has called up 40 players to begin camping in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja from today in preparation for the 2023 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations finals in Egypt
This is according to a statement by the Nigeria Football Federation Communications Department, obtained on Saturday.
The list is made up of five goalkeepers, nine defenders, 13 midfielders and 13 forwards. The players will stay at the Serob Legacy Hotel in the Wuye area of the nation’s capital.
The seven-time African champions triumphed at the WAFU B U-20 Championship held in Niger Republic in May and thus qualified to represent the zone at the 2023 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations to be staged in Egypt from February 18 to March 12.
All four semi-finalists at the U-20 AFCON will fly Africa’s flag at next year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup finals holding in Indonesia.
WAC: Amusan, Brume Others Set To Compete
Five Nigerian female athletes have qualified to compete at the 19th edition of the World Athletics Championships next year August in Budapest, Hungary, Tidesports source reports.
The five athletes are sprinters Favour Ofili, Grace Nwokocha and Rosemary Chukwuma; sprint hurdler Tobi Amusan and long jumper Ese Brume.
The five individual athletes secured their qualification at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham last August while Amusan automatically qualifies as the reigning World 100m hurdles champion albeit she could have made the cut either through the entry standard or the wild card her Diamond League victory conferred on her.
The Commonwealth Games period fell within the qualification window for the Championships.
Two of the five relay teams the women’s 4x100m and the Mixed 4x400m also secured qualification to the championships, the flagship event of World Athletics.
The two relay teams are able to secure qualification following the cancellation of the 2023 World Relays in China due to the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Three other Nigerian athletes also qualified provisionally for the World Athletics Championships as area champions.
They are Oyesade Olatoye (Hammer Throw), Chioma Onyekwere (Discus) and Chukwuebuka Enekwechi (Shot Put).
The trio won their respective events at the 22nd African Athletics Championships in Mauritius last June.
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