World Cup in Qatar: what hope for African teams?

Before every Cameroon football game, Henri Mouyebe applies green, red and yellow paint to his bald head and big bare belly. For 40 years, he has transformed his heavy carcass into a living and moving Cameroonian flag to support his team.

He will bring his painting, and a huge dose of hope, to the world Cup from this year to Qatar. “We are going there as conquerors, as winners, to play seven matches, to play until the end of the tournament”declares Henry Mouyebewhich provides that the Cameroon will go to the final of the world Cup.

Eternal optimism. Unfortunately, for Henri Mouyebe, this is most likely a mistake, given Cameroon’s recent World Cup record. The indomitable lions have won only one game in the last five World Cups they have appeared in, and there is no indication that they will travel to Lusail Stadium on December 18 to compete for football’s biggest prize.

In the African context, Cameroon’s difficulties are significant because it is the team, which shook up the world of football 32 years ago by beating the defending champions,Argentina – a team that mattered Diego Maradona – during the opening match in Italy. Almost in the semi-finals, if not a defeat in overtime against theEngland.

Africa has arrived, everyone says so. Pele said an African World Cup triumph was imminent. Seven World Cups and more than 30 years later, no African team has gone further than Cameroon, who reached the quarter-finals. Cameroon has still not come close.

« We have to be realistic »advances the former coach of Tunisia, Youssef Zouaouiabout Africa’s hopes for a historic World Cup at the Qatar with a semi-finalist, or even better, this time around. « The ambition is legitimate, but the reality on the ground is different ».

This reality for Tunisia preparing for the World Cup, argues Zouaoui, is that the best players in the country, driven by the economy of the world soccer, play for European clubs, which often outweighs their commitments to their country. These same economic factors have slowly exhausted Tunisia’s national football, so much so that the country is now in financial crisis.

How to build better stadiums, better leagues, better national teams to meet the demands of a continent of 1.3 billion people, where football is the most popular sport?

These basic disadvantages can be applied to the five African teams that are going to participate in this year’s World Cup – the Senegalthe GhanaCameroon, Morocco and Tunisia – even though they are unique teams that are not defined solely by their belonging to Africa. The problem is not only African, nor is it new. Wealthy European clubs also attract players and interests fromSouth AmericaAsia and elsewhere, and have been for years.

But in Africa, the Confederation of African Football (CAF), the body that manages football on the continent, is seen as the biggest failure of all.

CAF has hit rock bottom since the last World Cup when FIFA, the sport’s top governing body, sent its secretary general to lead the African organization for six months in 2019, an unprecedented move to take control of an independent continental confederation. This was necessary, according to FIFA, due to the organizational disorder financial situation in which CAF found itself.

FIFA did not stop there. Last year, the President of FIFA, Gianni Infantinobrokered a deal to ensure that his favorite candidate, the South African mining billionaire Patrice Motsepe, be elected without opposition to the position of President of CAF. Since then, Motsepe has accompanied Infantino to almost every official function.

L’excessive influence on CAF over the past three years has sparked a new wave of criticism of a body that has struggled for far longer and is certainly in need of rescuing. But Infantino’s interest, critics say, is more likely Africa’s 54 votes, football’s second-largest continental voting bloc behind Europe, ahead of next year’s FIFA presidential election. to Rwanda.

“Having 54 countries and a particular confederation at its disposal only increases its influence”highlights the African football analyst Francis Gaithowho is no less angry with the leaders of African football who, according to him, are accomplices.

The decision-making process in African football has now been « outsourced to Europe »adds Gaitho, just like his best talents.

In the midst of politics, CAF is nearly bankrupt, reported a net loss of $44.6 million last year, and somehow spoiled a sponsorship contract billion dollars over 10 years at the start of FIFA’s influence in 2019, which would have represented biggest single investment in african football and could have helped solve the myriad of problems.

“There is always a correlation between bad governance and teams and results”warns Gaitho. “I will tell people to manage their expectations and not expect too much from Africa”.

Hope remains, mainly this time with Senegal, with the spearhead Sadio Mane and a team that has managed in recent years to rise above Africa’s problems.

Elsewhere, they call for help. Ghana held two separate days of national prayerone for Christians and one for Muslims, last month for his team, which was also a much-celebrated quarter-finalist 12 years ago but will now be the lowest-ranked team in this year’s World Cup.

At 67, Henri Mouyebe is old enough to clearly remember his country’s magical journey in 1990. Perhaps that’s what gave him the energy to continue painting his entire body, from head to toe. feet, for 20 years, without seeing Cameroon win a single World Cup.

« The wish of all Africans is that performances like the one in 1990 become normal »said Jules Onana, who played in this Cameroon team during the 1990 World Cup. « Rather than being an exploit without a future ».

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