WORLD CUP: OFF PITCH

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WORLD CUP: OFF PITCH

Eto’o to spill the beans

Cameroon striker Samuel Eto`o will respond to a series of allegations against him after the World Cup, claiming they are part of a plot to destabilise the team. “Believe me, after the World Cup I will respond to everything. I will give names of those who have made these accusations so that the national team and the country know who is responsible.”

>Eto`o has been the centre of controversy in recent months. In May he called Jose Mourinho a “puppet” after the Chelsea manager suggested the 33-year-old might in fact be older.

“A lot of people have wanted to destabilise us. People can say what they want. I don`t care.”

“The team is more important than me. I believe in this team.”

Are Australians supposed to support England?>

We loathe them in cricket, we ignore them in rugby league, and we’ll never forgive Johnny Wilkinson for

drop goal, but somehow, when it comes to football, we have a soft spot for the English Three Lions.>

It’s hard to explain really.

If I were being cynical, I’d say it’s because we haven’t – until ten years ago – had a national team to be proud of, so naturally we’ve gravitated to supporting the motherland. But for a team that has disappointed for so long as well, what would be the sense in that?

If I were being sentimental, I’d say it’s because we really are the same family; and sometimes we like nothing more than beating our siblings in backyard cricket and at others we simply want to sit back and be proud of our family.

So when we cry and celebrate each week as Wayne Rooney or Daniel Sturridge run in on goal, doesn’t it make sense that we support them on the world stage too? Or does pulling on that white jersey with the Three Lions logo mean we should unleash our inner Mitch Johnson?

(Simon/The Roar)

Why do African teams under-perform at the World Cup?

In 1990, 

Cameroon were the darlings of the World Cup. With Roger Milla’s legendary hip shake, a win over Argentina and the team’s eventual run to the quarter-finals a door was opened for an additional African team to qualify for the tournament four years later.

In 2002, 

Senegal were the surprise package at an otherwise predictable World Cup. Like Cameroon before them, they started off their campaign with a win over the defending champions France and would eventually make it through to the quarter-finals.

Then in 2010 

Ghana had one of the most impressive runs

 

for an African team in World Cup history and were on the brink of becoming the first semi-finalists, only to have their dreams shattered by a missed penalty in the dying minutes.

Pele predicted that an African side

 would lift the World Cup before the end of the 20th century, but so far none has come close. This time round, Africa has well-represented with Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria

Why have African teams under-performed on the big stage? One theory involves the allocation of places. As a continent, Africa has 48 countries competing to get to the finals but only five places available. Europe gets 13 places. It used to be even worse, with Africa only allocated two places.

And when they do qualify, it is often marred with controversy. The elimination of Algeria in 1982 is one of the most outrageous examples of an African team being on the receiving end of dubious sportsmanship. Having beaten both West Germany and Chile, Algeria slipped up against Austria – but still had a chance of advancing unless West Germany beat Austria 1-0 or 2-0.

The Germans went ahead early on against Austria and both sides stopped competing once they realised how the score would benefit them. It caused outrage from the media and fans, with one Austrian commentator telling viewers to turn off the TV.

So the attitude towards African teams by the authorities is questionable, as is the way they are perceived.

Despite the skill and talent of African players, and their obvious achievements, success is viewed as a novelty. Yaya Toure said recently that African players do not get as much recognition as they should, causing outrage in many quarters. Yet many feel that he has a point. While the stiff competition of players such as Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo may explain why they have not won any of the big awards, neither Toure nor Didier Drogba have ever been named Premier League player of the month. One can understand how Toure might feel irked.

Toure has won the African Player of the Year award three times. Drogba has won it twice. Drogba is a record-goal scorer. Toure is a midfield beast who was integral in helping Manchester City to the title this year. Cheick Tiote has blossomed at Newcastle and Wilfried Bony is equally growing in stature.

Like many other players, though, they have struggled significantly when making the shift from club to country.>

But the issue is more complex than that. African footballers have repeatedly come into conflict with their own football authorities, as Samuel Eto’o pointed out recently. “The only problem in Africa is our leaders, who do not respect us. Until we are respected, other (continents) will never have any consideration for us.”

For Africa to succeed globally, a clear pathway to local success needs to be carved. Academies are forever appearing across the continent, but many players would still far rather compete in Europe than in their domestic leagues. The leagues will take time and investment to grow, but there is certainly sufficient interest in the sport to justify this investment.

(Antoinette Muller/The Guardian)

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