I believe Africa is being represented at the World Cup by wrong teams — wrong in the sense that it’s the usual teams that qualify at the expense of what are minnows and yet they always fail to shine at the bigger stage.
Teams like Egypt, Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria who have won the Africa Cup of Nations 7, 5, 4 and 3 times respectively need to reach, at least, the semifinals if not the final of any World Cup and not bow out at the group stages.
The best they did is reach the quarterfinals. Senegal were a revelation at their previous World Cup and we are yet to see if they will make Africa proud by reaching far if they beat Colombia in their last game.
Where do we go wrong? Is it because we rely too much on foreign coaches who seem not to learn much of our philosophy of the game?
Or is it that our players are the problem and don’t seem to be able to withstand the heat that is of the World Cup?
What is baffling is that most of the players in the African teams ply their trade in top European leagues. They are supposed to inspire their domestic league collegues to perform at their peak but it doesn’t work that way.
Can we say we have too much reliance on foreign coaches? What is it that makes foreign coaches superior to local coaches?
Senegal have a local coach in Allou Cisse and he seems to have blended well with his players and as other critics have observed it’s because he has been with the team for quite a spell — three years to be exact.
From his body language at the touchline, it is obvious Cisse has built a strong bond with his players and that’s why they are performing so well. People were quick to blame the team for drawing 2-2 with Japan but I thought by leading twice against such a formidable team like Japan, they salvaged an excellent result.
On an African Football Writers whatsapp group to which I belong, some one suggestes that it’s high time Africa adopted some workable strategies that will help African football grow and shine at the World Cup level.
The journalists are wondering that an African team can win the World Under-17 or Under- 20 and even the Under-23 Olympics but what is stopping us from winning the senior World Cup let alone reaching the semis or the final?
To which someone else alluded that we tend to do well at the junior level because of age cheating. Age cheating is rampant in the African game and Malawi is not spared at all.
This is one workable strategy we can employ, let’s get rid of age cheating at junior level. Let’s build from the junior level by putting the right age groups.
Coaches, local or foreign, should start with say Under-17 and graduate with them to U-20 then to U-23 and take them to the senior side. That way a bond of mutual understanding has been made between the players and coach.
At the same time, let’s invest heavily into the game. Football is very serious business but in most parts of the continent — especially Malawi — we run it at amateur level.
If Malawi can invest into the game so seriously by making sure our clubs participate at the highest club continental tournaments, we can nurture our players so well that the exposure they can get from this level can benefit the senior side.
Africa needs other representatives other than Egypt, Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria — little knowns. Perhaps FIFA and CAF can devise another strategy that qualification can be in zones rather than pooling all in one basket and creating five groups.
We do need more teams at the World Cup as it is being suggested than just five from over 50 associations.
Maybe FIFA and CAF can say two each from regional groupings like the COSAFA, CECAFA, WAFU and the North African confederation should qualify and that each confederation should compete in their own regional grouping.
That way maybe the World Cup can experience a new blend of African football rather than that from the usual suspects, Egypt, Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco and Nigeria.
But that is just my wildest dream, I guess.