How the world cup in South Africa is symbolic of the current state of affairs in Africa and the hope it portends for the continent
by Teddy Fikre: Posted Friday, June 11, 2010
Soccer is a game of athleticism, where raw speed, endurance, and tenacity separate the best from the also-rans. More important—and often overlooked—is that soccer is a game of tactics and strategy; a game that demands patience, leadership, and detailed planning. As the curtains are raised in the most anticipated sports event in the world, it is important to look at the current state of Africa and see how soccer is an analogy of the misfortunes of the whole continent and gather from this monumental occasion a deeper meaning of how soccer can revolutionize the “forgotten continent”.
So how is soccer symbolic of Africa? It is a not so hidden secret that some of the most successful athletes in the world come from or can trace their linage to Africa. Africans are blessed with raw prowess; we are often the fastest and physically gifted humans in the world. We are able to endure and thrive in the most inhospitable places around the corner. This fact was not lost hundreds of years ago when Europeans set out to “conquer” new found territory. Before Portugal, Spain, and England started enslaving Africans, they initially exploited “indentured servants” to work the fields. However, these indentured servants were did not cope very well with the excessive heat and unbearable conditions. Thus, Europeans turned to Africa to import slaves knowing that Africans—blessed with endurance and natural physical traits—to tend to their crops.
Fast forward 400 years later and much has not changed in Africa. The continent is still being exploited for the raw resources and human capacity to fill the coffers of the western world. And just as before, Africa is still producing some of the most gifted athletes in the world who are able to compete and conquer in some of the most unbearable conditions in the world. Nowhere else is this evident more than the sport of soccer. Soccer players from Ivory Coast, South Africa, and Nigeria—to name a few—are some of the most gifted football players in the world. Their speed, agility, and strength is often unmatched by their European counterparts. Sadly, some of the best soccer players in the world don’t play in their native land for the most part; they play for European teams such as Manchester United, Chelsea, Juventus, or one of many European premier leagues.
Back to the question, how is this symbolic of Africa? It is evident that Africa is not lacking in resources—whether it’s human or natural resources. There is an abundance of oil, coffee, rubber, diamonds, gold and, most importantly, human resources. What is plaguing Africa is not the lack of resources; we have enough material possessions to feed ourselves and the world. What Africa is missing—just like the game of soccer itself—is the leadership, the strategy, and the vision to unify the continent (team) and play towards a common goal. I have often been miffed that some teams can win matched against individual players who are more athletic as a whole. The answer is that teamwork can overcome weaknesses, strategic planning can overmatch competitive disadvantages.
This is why a team from Africa has never won the world cup. I believe that soccer teams from African countries like Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and South Africa have better athletes on the field, but they are often overmatched by better coached teams. Just as in soccer, the missing link towards the development and progress of Africa is found not in the individual players but in the unifying concept of teamwork and the galvanizing vision of a leader—whether that leader is a coach or a head of state. If Africa is able to get over the petty differences, the ethnic indifference, and the naked greed of heads of state who would rather exploit their people instead of….continued
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