Shooting from the hip ! – African Soccer at the Hand of Vultures

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Carlos Kambaekwa

With barely two days left before the curtain comes down on the 26th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations finals underway in Ghana – the finest ever football bonanza to have been staged on the African continent – heads have started to roll with Senegal’s coach Henry Kasperczak the first casualty.

Karperczak threw in the towel way before the Lions of Teranga played their crucial last group match against South Africa’s “Bafana Bafana”. A tie that turned out to be a match of convenience after both teams bowed out of the tournament with Angola and Tunisia only needing a draw to advance to the quarterfinals.

Now, what really struck my mind is the overwhelming number of foreign coaches who dragged along their own technical staff including kit managers – please don’t ask me what sort of expertise one needs to justify the urge of bringing foreign laymen on board.

I’m sure the Namibian Football Association might nod in agreement since this practice would likely save players from the embarrassment of leaving behind their playing gear in hotel rooms, excuse the pun, but that’s the reality of African football.

It’s evident as daylight, African football has certainly come of age and needs to be treated as such because African players are physically strong, technically aware, and above all, extremely gifted – period!

So now let me get on with the real stuff – is it not perhaps time for Africa to start empowering their own coaches and accord them the very same respect given to their European counterparts.

The Southern African region had four representatives at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana with two of them mentored by homegrown coaches and, ironically, Angola never lost a match in the group stages and was very unfortunate to lose against defending champions Egypt in the quarterfinals.

Zambia played some excellent football and even managed a draw against the Pharaohs in the group stages, while Namibia and South Africa were handed the wooden spoon in their respective group matches.

The problem with football bosses in Africa is that local coaches are usually not treated very well and until such time local coaches are treated with the same respect – African football will continue to suffer at the hands of vultures.

When a local coach is appointed on the same salary as his European predecessor, locals are usually up in arms and start questioning the wisdom of paying such a huge salary to a homeboy.

To worsen matters, the local coach is never given free reins and his tactics and team selections are constantly questioned with lots of interference that could potentially undermine his mandate.

Look at the case of Nigeria. The Super Eagles had no business playing second fiddle to anybody on the continent with all the resources they have at their disposal – but for some strange team selection, the star-studded nation failed to fully utilize their numerical advantage against a ten-man Ghana.

Snippets from the West African country is that incumbent coach Berti Vogts will soon join the queue for the unemployed, but who gives a damn as the German national has ostensibly negotiated a clause in his contract that allows him a hefty payout for turning the Super Eagles into Super Chickens.

As I’m penning down this piece, hosts Ghana are just about to face their sternest test in the three-week tournament when the Black Stars come up against the Pharaohs and yours truly can assure you the reader that defeat for Ghana will see the back of under-fire coach Claude Le Roy.

Is Africa Ready to Host Global Events?

Thank god hosts Ghana are still alive and kicking in the 26th edition of the continental showpiece otherwise the live telecast of this event would have been a disaster with the roars of fans missing from the stands.

Talking to fellow pen pusher and well-travelled television presenter Ponga Liwewe in Accra recently, I posed a question to Bra Ponga as to why the stands are only filled to raptures whenever the home team is in action.

After a pause of a few seconds, obviously searching for a suitable answer, the brother mumbled something about the flexible infrastructure, the geographic proximity and of course the well-being of our European brothers and sisters.

It’s of paramount importance that Ghana as host nation go all the way to the final to keep the momentum going, otherwise we’ll be watching mediocre football in front of empty stands.

I’m shivering to think what would happen to South Africa should Bafana Bafana bow out in the early stages of the 2010 World Cup finals.
It will be a shame to watch a global showpiece on African soil with stadiums filled only with pale-skinned faces.

In view of the above, Africans should gang up and support the initiative of rallying behind each other when the World Cup comes to Africa for the very first time.

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