The ongoing World Cup matches have been quite scintillating as seen from the early departure of Germany, Spain and Argentina to the competitive fighting spirit of Iceland, Columbia and Senegal.
I have missed but one match and do everything in my power to not miss a minute of each of the games. I Facebook throughout each game and have become the taunted among my online friends who criticize my having chosen 4 teams:
- Germany to win overall (that dream died early).
- Nigeria as my African team, because which black person does not have an African team they support in the World Cup.
- Iceland, my underdog team (because they played their first match with gut) and;
- Croatia as my sleeper team (a team which could sneak up and shock with how far they reach (only team I have which is still standing).
So given that 3 of my 4 teams went home early I was left cheering for teams on a match by match basis. There are friends from my home country of Jamaica who saw my Facebook posts and could not believe I was such a supporter of the ‘colonisers’.
I was asked more than once why I supported teams from former colonisers. This I could easily justify. For me, the French team is the ‘other’ African team so they got my support, the British team has a Jamaican plus several other players of Jamaican/Caribbean heritage.
But more importantly, I love good football at the World Cup level and most of the non-European teams were not playing up to par and did not provide me with any reason to support them.
There are moments when I put aside my need for top level football and support a team for a reason I can justify in my mind. For example, though Nigeria was my African team of choice, I supported Senegal because this was the only team with a manager/coach of African descent.
A team playing at the World Cup finals with a non-white manager/coach is a big deal and should be celebrated.
A celebration of the Senegalese coach should not just happen among non-whites but should be seen as a sign of what is possible for sports in general.
Unless, of course we are happy with the status quo where the World Cup trophy stays in Europe most of the time.
And it stays there not because Europeans can play football better than anyone else, but because the facilities and programs on that continent are far superior to those for the little black girls and black boys elsewhere.
There is also the host of Africans paying on many of these European teams.
This is not a slight on European nations, this is not me hating on that region, instead, this is me wondering what the game of football would look like at the highest level, if poorer nations had the resources to invest in their football programs.
What would the teams of France, Belgium and England look like if their ‘African’ players were motivated to play for the countries from which them and their families originated?
At the moment, no one is truly at fault for the state of affairs, Africans playing for European teams are doing so to make a living and do what they love just as expatriates move to work abroad.
The countries in question are trying to win and to do so, many of them need the players from Africa. Is this a sustainable way moving forward? Absolutely yes, it is a sustainable way.
But, if blacks are to gain a seat at the proverbial table and to be seen as a dignified race then we need to do better. The answer is not to call for black footballers to stop playing for countries where as a people we are treated as less.
That is a short-sighted option as it could not be achieved and what would be the substitute for the income loss for those players affected?
In my mind, the solution is for poorer countries who take an interest in football at the World Cup level, to step up and do it right or stop masquerading with an idea.
In my lifetime it would be nice to see a World Cup tournament where the prediction that all the black teams would go home after the first round is proven incorrect.
And for the record, the South American teams are not black teams! A team cannot be considered black if majority of the players would be unwilling to tick black or negro on a form they were completing for official purposes.
The writer is owner and managing director of Forrest Jackson Properties, a full-service real estate company in Kigali.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.