Is Africa shortchanging sportspersons?


THIS year Africa celebrates its 55th anniversary since formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now African Union (AU), on May 25 1963 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Africa has come a long way.
On the sporting front, however, Africa still has a long way to go.
In football, athletics, cricket, hockey, swimming and tennis, among other disciplines, Africa continues to lag behind.
Sport is one of the best paying industries in the world, with professional sportspersons living the life.
In football, Africa continues to have limitations despite the continent having mastered this sporting discipline.
Having been introduced during the colonial era by the white imperialists, football’s popularity is next to none in most African countries.
From the streets to the stadia, football is played at any open space, drawing big crowds.
It is played in all the African countries as the Confederation of African Football has 56 members.
It also has a competition of its own, the Africa Cup of Nations. Africa will next month (June) participate at the World Cup with Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia representing the continent in Russia.
However, Africa continues to suffer at the world soccer showcase.
Since its participation at the World Cup, no African team has gone beyond the quarter finals stage.
There are several examples of how African teams fail the last hurdle to reach the semi-finals.
In the first World Cup played on African soil in 2010 in South Africa, Ghana were on the brink of breaking the jinx.
Ghana were playing Uruguay when striker Louis Suarez handled Ghana’s strike that had clearly crossed the line.
It was a goal!
Instead of the referee declaring a goal, he called for a penalty.
Unfortunately Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan missed the spot kick, breaking the hearts of many people.
Ghana were the third African team to fail to qualify for the semi-finals after Cameroon in 1990 and Senegal in 2002.
Africa has also provided numerous players in some of the top leagues in the world.
The English Premier League, one of the highly rated leagues, has several Africans plying their trade.
The current player of the season in England is an African, Mahomed Salah of Egypt.
Age-group teams like the Under-17 and Under-23 from Africa have not disappointed at the international competitions.
Nigeria’s Under-23 side of 1996 won gold at the Olympics in Atlanta, US.
The team featured the likes of Nwanko Kanu, Sunday Oliseh, Taribo West, Garba Lawal, Celestine Babayaro, Emmanuel Amunike and Austin ‘JayJay’ Okocha, among others.
It was a team that beat Argentina 2-3 in the finals to become the first African team to win gold at the Olympics in football.
The team gelled as it later represented Nigeria at the World Cup in the later years.
However, their success was limited as they failed to reach the semis.
Ghana’s Under-17 team conquered the world in the age-group World Cup.
Years later, that same team failed to beat the very European nations they had outwitted.
The world rankings are quite revealing.
No African country has been ranked first in the world.
There has been no equal representation at the World Cup for Africa and Europe.
Over the years, African teams have increased from one in 1970 to five.
The highest representation from Africa was six in 2010 when South Africa hosted the world.
Africa and Europe have almost the same number of countries, but Europe has more slots at the World Cup.
This year, Europe has 14 countries and by virtue of numbers, they have better chances of winning the World Cup.
FIFA boss Giovanni Infantino’s move to increase the number of countries participating at the World Cup to 48 might work in Africa’s favour.
The world’s most prestigious award, the FIFA Ballon d’Or, has never been won by an African footballer.
In athletics, Africa dominates in long distance events, with Kenya and Ethiopia taking the lead.
The fastest man on earth, Usain Bolt, is a Jamaican of African origin.
His record of 9,58 seconds on 100m still stands.
Other black sprinters who rocked the world are American Maurice Green whose exploits in the 100 and 200m events earned him respect.
Though American, Green is of African descent, just like Tyson Gay, Carl Lewis, Donovan Bailey and Justin Gatlin, among others.
There are numerous blacks who have made their mark in various sporting disciplines.
However, countries like France, US, Belgium and Germany are quick to offer sportspersons citizenships.
The Boateng brothers, Kevin and Jerome, play for different national teams.
Kevin opted for his native Ghanaian nationality, while his brother is German.
Paul Pogba is French but is originally from Guinea.
His sibling Mathias plays for Guinea.
Belgium can now field an all-black national team as the European country taps into talent from its former colonies.
In cricket, Gary Ballance now plays for England, although he was born in Zimbabwe.
In rugby, Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira plays for South Africa, although he was born in Zimbabwe.
In boxing, Dereck Chisora represents Britain, yet he is Zimbabwean-born.
All the excelling sportspersons are easily targeted and assimilated by Europe.
France, in particular, is the main culprit as other European countries continue to follow in its footsteps.
From colonisation, where Europe took natural resources from Africa, Europe continues to loot human resources from the continent.
Such developments could be avoided if African nations come up with better sports administration policies and management.
Some Africans leave their countries because of the way sport is being administered in mother continent.
As Africa celebrates another milestone, sportspersons on the continent still have a long way to go.


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