AFRICA, THE WORLD CUP AND MONEY
Call it the biggest event or the greatest soccer fiesta, the FIFA World Cup which is organized every four years is surely a great sporting event in the history of the sports. The eagerness and passion with which professional footballers crave to represent countries at the world stage is visible. Some of these players who do not get frequent playing time at clubs, move to new clubs in order to catch the eyes of national coaches. Finally when the list of those selected to represent the country comes out, the grief and disappointment of those who could not make it depicts the dream of every footballer to partake the greatest soccer event.
For some African nations, the world cup is a period during which internal politics is put aside and the country rally as one people to cheer their teams on. There have been reports of people losing their lives just because their team lost. On the other hand, when African teams win especially against soccer giants, the joy and ecstasy is simply admirable. I remember when Ghana beat Czech Republic at a time when Czech was rated one of the best teams in the world. I can describe it as an explosion of joy, there was fanfare in almost every corner of the country with the rich among society hosting parties where food and drinks were in abundance.
Despite all great passion for the world game, the conduct of some of the African teams on and off the field at the world cup is very appalling, more especially with regards to money. Cameroon was reported to have refused to Board 2014 World Cup Flight Due to Bonus-Money Row. But when they finally made it to the competition, their unacceptable performance especially in their game against Croatia has attracted condemnation. One cannot imagine when a fellow team member would head-butt the other, but yet it happened. This act coupled with another by Alex Song who hit the opponent at the back could easily and mistakenly be a confirmation of the stereotype that Africans are violent. The Nigerian team also refused to train on a particular for the same reason of money. The most shameful and disgraceful was that of Ghana, my home country. There was a player revolt due to appearance fee which made the Ghana president sanction the flying of $ 3 million in cash all the way from Ghana to Brazil. This event came few days after which the Ghana football association had been accused of match fixing.
Although some have blamed the players for lack of sacrifice. I think we must look at the bigger picture. The bane of most of these African countries is deeply rooted in the culture and society that indirectly approve the priority given to money. In most of societies, preference and respect is given to the wealthy. Political positions are seen as a means to richness rather than service to the people and so are positions where people represent their respective countries. National agenda is most often relegated to the background at the expense of personal parochial interests. That is why you see most African leaders riding in wanton richness whiles the populace struggle to survive difficult and challenging conditions. Trust me, some of these players could afford to play for national pride but would not do so because they feel others will ride on their back to make monetary gains. One of the African players at world cup is quoted as saying “”…What’s the use of the officials and others here? You are basically non-essential and have no role or duties here. Your number even dwarf that of the players. You receive bonuses for no work done; you are a drain on the government. You always make money on our back and you see every tournament as a means to make money and you have the vim to question us why we want our money?”
We find ourselves in such a situation because some of our societal and cultural norms approve greed and personal interests. The lack of sacrifice and patriotism means everyone will first want to think of personal benefits. Until we have a change of mind and attitude, successes that we desire will forever elude us. Not only in soccer but in almost every aspect of our lives. We are blessed to have abundant resources, but our greed and personal motives becomes an obstacle to collective and national successes. Funds that come as donations from Western countries are misused. John F. Kennedy, former US president once said “The human mind is our fundamental resource”. Due to lack of knowledge, we continue to repeat the same things that do not foster our development. We find ourselves in a situation where collective ignorance is seen to be a fact or the acceptable practice.
I have always received string criticisms when I say people should not send money to Africa because it makes people lazy. I will rather donors and people who want to help send knowledge and expertise that will help the people of Africa realise our deplorable state and identify ways improve our lot. Better still if you send money, please ensure accountability. To my fellow brothers and sisters, I know there is a future for Africa, if the disgrace and shame we go through will prompt us to change our ways. We must seek to improve our knowledge and educate our people to help win them from ignorance. May be next time, an African country will be winning the world cup. Undoubtedly, we naturally possess the skill and talent, but lack in expertise and tactics. Best wishes to Nigeria and Algeria who progressed from the group stages. I end with a quote from Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, who said “As I see it, societal integrity and moving ahead together were always our greatest strength after the wars. Preserving them is a serious challenge in this day and age,”
By Isaac Adaam
This story has been published in Karjalainen newspaper and produced by JoMoni