African Soccer Not Piercing Through

South Korea goes up 2-1 against Nigeria. They tied 2-2, and Nigeria was knocked out of the competition

Why has an African nation failed to win a World Cup to date? Read on and let me know what you think.

I’m covering the 2010 FIFA South Africa World Cup for CBC-TV, along with reporter Kim Brunhuber and camera/editor Richard Agecoutay. Kim lived here five years ago and had lots of ideas and contacts before we came over from Canada.

Kim Brunhuber and Richard Agecoutay in action

Kim noted that Cameroon (1990) and Senegal (2002) were the only African nations to reach the quarter-finals in World Cup action. Despite Pele’s bold prediction that an African nation would win by 2000, those results remain the best ever. The way this tournament has started, it doesn’t look like things are going to change now.

The main street in Masiphumelele turned into a soccer pitch for the World Cup

As Kim had connections to permit us a visit to the Masiphumelelee township outside of Cape Town, he pitched the idea of visiting a shebeen (tavern) to find out from some of the locals about why Africa has not been able to succeed on the FIFA pitch.

A pool table is one of the distractions at the local shebeen

The shebeen was surreal for someone like me. First off, the outside of the building was totally non-descript, almost hidden from the road, but still sporting a natty sign indicating that it’s a tavern.

No neon signs at this tavern

The plain picnic tables on bare floors inside, mixed with the dim lighting that cuts slashes through the smokey air, give the tavern a surprisingly comforting feel – even if foreign to this visitor.

Zwai Mzwandile acted as our host, and he made sure a number of his friends were on hand to talk about their favorite sport. Once a few beers were opened, the conversation became quite animated. Most of it I missed, because much of it was in a regional dialect, and the English was heavily accented. Zwai, however, was easily understood and he served as a translator.

This is what they had to say:

-African soccer suffers from a lack of money. Training facilities aren’t at the level of European ones, and top players are drawn off the continent to play.

-The quality of coaching, and ultimately the tactics utilized by African teams. This is a problem not far removed from the problem of financing.

-Too many Africans play as individuals, and are not dedicated enough to the team concept. This view is borne out by newspaper articles over the weekend that too many decisions around the South African team have been based on getting a player exposed to international scouts, and potentially lucrative contracts.

Kids playing soccer around the corner from the shebeen

Despite the acknowledgement of these problems, the folks in the shebeen spoke with a fierce pride of African soccer. They spontaneously broke out into song celebrating Bafana Bafana – their beloved South African team – even with the knowledge that getting past the first round was unlikely (and that turned out to be true).

For more on our visit, watch for Kim Brunhuber’s report on CBC TV’s coverage of the World Cup.

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6 responses to “African Soccer Not Piercing Through

  1. England found a bit of a spark in their third match. However, they seem fragile and I’m not sure they understand (or believe in ) Fabio their coach. The Germans appear to have the patience and the game plan to win this one (sorry!). I’ve seen both sides play one time each, and the Germans are running and moving the ball better. Hope I’m wrong, though. This will be one of the most viewed matches of the World Cup.

  2. Martin Johnson

    Can I join the party? What are England’s chances against Germany?

  3. charlie johnson

    Best goal so far Quagliarella for Italy best BB lookalike…Sorenson of Denmark. Hi Bob see you in aug

  4. charlie johnson

    Best goal so far Quagliarella for Italy best BB lookalike…Sorenson of Denmark hi Bob see you in aug

  5. Dan,
    this is easily one of the most interesting assignments I’ve ever had. The blend of the African continent and the World Cup event are taking me to places and moments I had not imagined. The blog has lots of new traffic. The “Portugal-North Korea Match Brings Out More Locals” has generated the start of what could be the most interesting exchanges in the “comments” section. Two local teachers in South Africa have responded to a comment left by Myra. That kind of connectivity is exciting.

  6. The tavern is definitely no Old Orchard but what a unique opportunity. Did you expect this contract to be such an interesting one? Hopefully your blog starts to get a lot of hits because I keep bragging about it to anyone who is watching the World Cup.

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