What East African must do to develop football

Football has the ability to affect me deeply and while many people may not comprehend this, I believe that many football lovers can relate to my predicament. Football fans have been known to bet fortunes, get depressed and commit suicide or refuse to work or eat for days because of this sport. The less radical ones usually engage in arguments and fistfights.

Football has the ability to affect me deeply and while many people may not comprehend this, I believe that many football lovers can relate to my predicament.

Football fans have been known to bet fortunes, get depressed and commit suicide or refuse to work or eat for days because of this sport. The less radical ones usually engage in arguments and fistfights.

That is the case in almost all parts of the world probably excluding North America and India. However, the world’s sole super-power, the USA, has found it difficult to continue snubbing the world’s most popular game and have of recent invested heavily in this sport.

On the home-front, however, many things are not quite up to par. Football in East Africa is cringe worthy; every time someone starts talking about football in this region, my eyes well up with tears. East African football is tragic. Why is this so?

The Guardian’s sports commentator, Brian Oliver, once described East Africa as a huge land mass, in a part of the world with a strong football culture, but nothing more than a desert when it comes to developing players for football’s global market.

Many seem to agree. European clubs scouts have said we lack the West African type physique and aggressiveness, which is far better suited to the demands of modern football than the slighter build found in East Africa.

Others say we lack in exposure and that we suffer from an inferiority complex that causes our players to become star struck every time they meet North or West African teams.

It is true that our facilities are the poorest in the whole continent and that our youth programs are generally not consistent. Our federations are often very political and we often find players getting selected to our national sides based on their clubs former glory even when they are not delivering.

It is a fact most of our players are underpaid and that they lack basic qualities such as fitness, ball control skills and general tactical intelligence.

Our player’s presence in European clubs is almost non-existent. One can go on and on.

Fifa’s Jerome Champagne says the problem is structure. “Development starts with structure, that’s why we (FIFA) got involved very deeply because without a good structure you cannot do anything,” he explained. I agree with Jerome but also with everyone else.

The problems are everywhere!
It is a positive development that our political leaders are starting to pay attention to football and clubs are becoming more organised.

Thank goodness there will not be a ‘non-Eastern-African’ team winning the CECAFA tournament right under our noses thanks to Zanzibar and Rwanda, who eliminated Zambia and Zimbabwe respectively in the CECAFA tournament being held in Kenya .

These developments are sparks of hope.
For the meantime however, the thought of  Haruna Niyonzima of Rwanda or Dennis Oliech of Kenya scoring against England or Brazil will remain a pipedream

J_kiregu@yahoo.com

The author is a journalist with The New Times

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