Earlier this summer, the media presented us with this glossy African World Cup. By hosting the World Cup, Africa edged closer to western civilisation, it seemed. All of South Africa’s problems were to be solved by it. If Ghana had reached the semi-final too, Africa’s problems would have been seemingly wiped out altogether.
The reality is, though,that South Africa still has a few problems. And some of these increased because of the World Cup. The poor folk remain poor, though the rich are substantially richer. The country had 40,000 prostitutes entering its borders, adding to its already high toll of 150,000 sex workers, tens of thousands of which are children. As though that isn’t enough, one in five of the country’s population suffer from AIDS. Starvation is still widespread across Africa. And those buying tickets for the opening game of the competition would have spent from $200 to $2,278; a little higher than the South African average wage.
When Ghana went out of the quarter-final, it was as though Africa’s redemption was postponed. “Africa’s dream” – whatever that is – was over. It was, according to reports, shattered, broken and destroyed – I remember pondering whether this so-called dream is a Grecian urn. Oh, and the dream’s disappearance is being aired on Crime-Watch, too, because it was apparently killed by the Uruguayans. The Guardian also confirmed it was dead.
This dream was so naively portrayed, and more irritatingly, so ignorant of the importance of Arabs in anything to do with African redemption through football! Let me ask you: did you hear, even once, anyone mentioning that Algeria could complete the African dream, on THEIR African soil? Algeria was one of five African teams there, better footballingly than South Africa themselves. As much as it hurts to say, they were one of the African ambassadors at the World Cup, yet nobody gave them this kind of attention.
In fact, were it not for South Africa’s bribing expertise, giving FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s brother’s contracting company the rights to build the stadia of the tournament (Commentmideast is now the first to know my insider information!), and Nelson Mandela turning up a few times in the Bid, the first African World Cup would surely have been on Arab soil. All other bids to host the tournament were made by Arabs, namely Morocco, Egypt, and Libya/Tunisia’s joint-bid. But it wouldn’t be right for the first African World Cup to be hosted by Arabs, and not a sub-Saharan nation, would it?
Africa’s footballing governing body, CAF, was founded by Egypt and Sudan, who also founded the first African Cup of Nations. Egypt, which holds the CAF headquarters, saved the organisation from bankruptcy in the early 20th century. Over a dozen African Cup of Nations competitions have been hosted in the Arab world, and a dozen have been won by Arab nations, not least the last four editions.
The last three editions of the African Cup of Nations were won by Egypt, who did not qualify to the competition. This was never mentioned in the mainstream footballing media either. Surely, and without any doubt, Africa’s best chance to make history would have been through its finest footballing nation today, who have won the last three ACNs convincingly, not losing in 19 consecutive ACN matches, and winning 9 in a row. To put things into perspective, imagine if England won the European Championships. It would be crazy there, wouldn’t it? Out of this world! Imagine the news and the papers and the open-bus parades. Imagine England won two Euros… wow. Lost for words. The greatest team in history. A knighthood for each player. Finally, imagine three in a row, if you dare…
Egypt have also shot to the 9th in the FIFA World Rankings, the second best in the history of Africa, since Nigeria in 1994. Nigeria noticed the potential of Egypt’s fulfilling Africa’s “dream”, and their priority manager for the World Cup was Egypt’s Hassan Shehata, though the Egyptian FA rejected their ‘loan offer’ for the master tactician.
So, Africa’s “dream” wasn’t achieved. Firstly, because there are some problems that Ghana’s reaching the semi-final, in reality, just cannot solve. I’m not one to undermine the power of football. I live football. But the whole ‘Africa is now fine that the World Cup was played there’ concept was too superficial to handle. Why Algeria wasn’t allowed to share in this dream, is either due to racial discrimination from Africans, or overly positive discrimination from the western media towards the darker colours which Africa represents to them. To me, the under-achievement of Algeria is epitomised by the anonymous ‘no-continent’ status they were given. And if Egypt had reached or even hosted the World Cup, rather than South Africa, who haven’t even passed the first round of the African Cup since 2002, maybe we would have seen something better, footballingly, for Africans and Arabs alike. At least, as Egypt’s final World Cup 2010 Bid presentation unprofessionally boasted on its tacky PowerPoint: “We do not have AIDS”. Fair point.
AIDS still exists in Africa unfortunately. Because Ghana didn’t reach the semi-final.
Views expressed in articles are the author’s and do not represent Comment Middle East
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