For many African soccer fans, the 2010 FIFA World Cup showcase in South Africa, for the first time in the history of soccer, is a mere fad. Despite the big names from Africa in the rich European clubs like Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o and Yaya Toure, the African teams performed dismally.
Since the inception of the World Cup, no African team has managed to play to the final stage, leave alone winning the cup.
The disappointment of hosting the world’s most popular sport for the first time and being edged out at the preliminary stage is upon us. We no longer have the enthusiasm, passion and drive to watch the remaining matches in the rainbow nation.
The Black Stars, who had gained a solid African continent fans’ ardent support left the highly expectant fans with heart attacks. The Friday, 2nd July night was probably the longest for the African soccer patriots.
As the match between Ghana and Uruguay heated up, fans crossed their fingers, held their hearts by the hands and their breaths by the chests as the Black Stars tried their luck.
Hopes diminished and dreams tumbled down when Folan’s deflected free kick gave Uruguay an equalizer. A draw was dangerous, because as predicted, going to penalty shootout stage was a big disadvantage for the Black Stars.
The solution to African soccer lies in the schools. Before the next World Cup in 2014, let’s nurture and develop young talents in schools.
Superb talents in schools have always ended up vegetating and wasting away because they are neither recognized nor known by the soccer bigwigs.
As Sev Sarmenta noted in the Philippine Inquirer, let’s make soccer in schools fun first. Roll out soccer balls in schools and provide ample space for children to kick the ball.
The performance by African teams is partly due to the lack of grassroots and school soccer programs that can feed national teams with young virile talents to replace household names like Eto’o.
Time allocated for Physical Education (P.E) in schools should not only be used for running and physical fitness exercises. Soccer skills like dribbling, running with the ball, heading, shooting, goal keeping, attacking and defending should be impressed upon learners.
Ministries of Education and Sports in Africa should give sports, especially soccer, equal emphasis that academic work is given.
Not all students can succeed because of academic excellence. The problem with African education systems is that it’s a “Teach all animals how to swim or teach all animals how to fly,” model. Eagles cannot swim and fish cannot fly!
It is high time the concept of ‘multiple intelligences’ was fully embraced in our school curricular. Giving academic excellence undue emphasis and force is misleading.
Our curricular should identify, develop and nurture non- academic capabilities in students like playing soccer and utilize them at school level and nationally.
African governments should also root for the establishment of rich European clubs’ schools in Africa to give highly qualified professional coaching to African players. Schools, like that of Arsenal’s in Bahrain, create a sporting environment that fosters team work, self development, empowerment and confidence to individual players.
The author is the Director Of Studies at Nu Vision High School, Kabuga.