Football Crazy – Introduction (Part One) All the World’s A Stage

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Football Crazy – Introduction (Part One) All the World’s A Stage

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (April 16th 2022)

Football’s Insanity

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Usually attributed to the genius, Albert Einstein, it was something that should have been said by him if, in fact, he didn’t say it. But it applies to football, especially African football.

African nations see winning the men’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) as the benchmark of success for most African nations – the World Cup is another story.

The World Cup

In brief, simplistic explanations of corruption and greed do not and cannot explain Africa’s experience. Corruption and dictatorship have had their reward on the biggest stage in world football – Italy in 1934, Brasil in 1970 and Argentina in 1978 are obvious examples. So, why not Africa nations? The lack of opportunity, compared to Europe and South Africa both historically and recently play a part. Africa had a four decades long wait to receive just one automatic slot at the World Cup Finals out of 16 – to be blunt football’s governing body didn’t care. Then there were bizarre officiating decisions and outright disgraces, such as the Disgrace of Gijón in 1982.

Despite five slots in 2018 African nations failed shamefully. Not one of the five progressed from their groups – it did Africa’s coefficient no good, yet some Africans – thankfully few – claimed France’s success for Africa.[1] Four years ago I debunked this in the article below https://www.espn.co.uk/football/blog-football-africa/story/3576810/claiming-frances-world-cup-triumph-for-africa-overlooks-the-continents-failings. Sadly, little has changed. Africa has a new set of contenders ready to try to make history in Qatar, yet the grievous ills facing African football remain.


A defeat for a European club, albeit a European giant paved the way for root and branch change. Bayern München’s catastrophic collapse in UEFA’s Champions League final to Manchester United in 1999 resulted in a thorough review of what had gone wrong. It led to facilities abroad as Germany set about rewriting history by becoming the only European country to win the World Cup in South America – in Brasil no less in 2014.

Germany was far from alone in seeking and discovering solutions. Interestingly, Italy, France, England and Spain all reached a similar conclusion. France had a disastrous World Cup in 1966. A review of the failure resulted in a key recommendation – the now renowned National Football Centre at Clairefontaine opened its doors in 1972. Italy and Spain also looked to youth, but all confronted the problematic issue – club versus country. England has its Saint George’s complex too and it is also beginning to bear fruit, albeit without the ultimate prizes. The solutions developed by European nations of Football complexes that provide the necessary facilities to develop have proved successful. They can’t be transported to Africa but the blueprint is important and at least one African country has adopted it and reaped the fruit it sowed – Morocco.

Solutions

A defeat for a European club, albeit a European giant paved the way for root and branch change. Bayern München’s catastrophic collapse in UEFA’s Champions League final to Manchester United in 1999 resulted in a thorough review of what had gone wrong. It led to facilities abroad as Germany set about rewriting history by becoming the only European country to win the World Cup in South America – in Brasil no less in 2014.

Germany was far from alone in seeking and discovering solutions. Interestingly, Italy, France, England and Spain all reached a similar conclusion. France had a disastrous World Cup in 1966. A review of the failure resulted in a key recommendation – the now renowned National Football Centre at Clairefontaine opened its doors in 1972. Italy and Spain also looked to youth, but all confronted the problematic issue – club versus country. England has its Saint George’s complex too and it is also beginning to bear fruit, albeit without the ultimate prizes.

The solutions developed by European nations of Football complexes that provide the necessary facilities to develop have proved successful. They can’t be transported to Africa but the blueprint is important and at least one African country has adopted it and reaped the fruit it sowed – Morocco.

[1] That included the convicted criminal Junior Lawrence, who even used it to harass me on Facebook in the course of committing a criminal offence.

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