African soc­cer teams in per­pet­ual cy­cle of amper daar

CityPress - - Sport - S’Bu­siso Mse­leku sm­se­leku@city­ Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Sbu_M­se­leku

Dur­ing one of my es­capades as a young man in Johannesburg, I chanced upon a stu­dents’ res­i­dence called Amper Daar.

This home away from home was re­served for fourth-year stu­dents.

I thought it was an apt name. The Afrikaans phrase ‘amper daar’ means al­most there.

You might won­der about its rel­e­vance in a soc­cer col­umn.

Well, amper daar was brought into sharp fo­cus by two events last week.

One was the Fifa Un­der-20 World Cup third-place play­off be­tween Mali and Sene­gal, won 3-1 by the for­mer.

This meant Mali fin­ished third, af­ter Ser­bia and Brazil, with the Euro­peans tri­umph­ing 2-1 in the fi­nal.

Ghana and Nige­ria have pre­vi­ously won global youth soc­cer tour­na­ments, in­clud­ing the Olympic Games, where na­tions field play­ers un­der the age of 23 and are al­lowed only three play­ers over this age.

But when it comes to the Fifa World Cup for se­nior teams, African na­tions al­ways come a crop­per.

Cameroon set a bench­mark – 25 years ago – by mak­ing it to the quar­ter­fi­nal.

Since then, Nige­ria (1994), Sene­gal (2002) and Ghana (2010) have all fallen at the same stage.

Over the past few decades, there have been nu­mer­ous dis­cus­sions, de­bates and opin­ions on why African teams get amper daar at the World Cup.

One of those ar­gu­ments – said in hushed tones – is that this is due to age-cheat­ing.

The belief is that African teams that won ti­tles at a ju­nior level have likely done so with over­age play­ers. This has never been proven. How­ever, the ques­tion re­mains: How do the teams ma­ture and fail to com­pete, or even match their coun­ter­parts when at se­nior level?

The Un­der-20 sides of both Mali and Sene­gal were again a case of amper daar.

And then – while we were still reel­ing from that mat­ter – the pres­i­dent of the Liberia Football As­so­ci­a­tion, Musa Bil­ity, raised his hand for the soon-to-be-va­cant Fifa pres­i­dency!

Be­fore this un­ex­pected an­nounce­ment, I did not know of the honourable Bil­ity.

What makes Bil­ity think he can suc­ceed?

Af­ter all, Con­fed­er­a­tion of African Football (CAF) pres­i­dent Issa Hay­a­tou has been at the helm since 1988 and is now the most se­nior Fifa vice-pres­i­dent.

In­ter­est­ingly, Hay­a­tou tried to un­seat Sepp Blat­ter at the 2002 Fifa Congress in Seoul, South Korea, and the re­sults were dis­as­trous for the African.

He only gar­nered 56 votes, while Blat­ter se­cured an in­cred­i­ble 139.

Mr Bil­ity does, how­ever, of­fer a good ar­gu­ment when he says: “Africa is the largest vot­ing bloc in Fifa, with 54 mem­bers.”

He also claims to have spo­ken to a num­ber of African football fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dents and says they sup­port his can­di­dacy.

Does he have the (a)Bil­ity to stand by the qual­ity of se­ri­ous can­di­dates who have ex­pressed their in­ter­est in the po­si­tion? I doubt that he will make it. We all know that Africa’s nu­meric ad­van­tage at Fifa has pre­vi­ously failed to guar­an­tee a pos­i­tive out­come for the con­ti­nent.

Af­ter all, money talks and Africa just does not have that com­mod­ity in the quan­tity re­quired.

I also doubt that Africa has proven its abil­ity to lead an or­gan­i­sa­tion like Fifa.

Just look at how CAF’s con­gresses and com­pe­ti­tions are con­ducted, and at how African na­tions per­form at global events.

On the other hand, Bil­ity may con­sider his chances to be high against can­di­dates like pre­vi­ous Brazil­ian soc­cer star Zico.

Be­sides his ex­ploits on the pitch, there hasn’t been much said about him as an ad­min­is­tra­tor.

He did, how­ever, act as Brazil’s sports min­is­ter in the early 1990s.

This could be what has led to spec­u­la­tion that Blat­ter might not step down af­ter all. Only time will tell. For now, Africa must deal with get­ting rid of its seem­ingly per­pet­ual tag of amper daar.

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