2010’s biggest legacy all in the mind

3 June 2011

National football associations in Africa are now more confident of their role and contribution in international sports affairs, and association heads say much of this is due to South Africa’s successful hosting of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

“The biggest legacy of the World Cup is psychological and mental,” says Mahomed Iya, president of the Union des Federations de Football d’Afrique Centrale (Unifac).

“I think [2010 organising committee CEO] Danny Jordaan and his team have proved to the world that Africans no longer feel inferior to anyone.”

Iya was one of the African football administrators who met Fifa president Sepp Blatter in Johannesburg on 21 May to discuss the legacy of the World Cup on the African continent.

Although he denied it, Blatter’s recent visit to Africa was mainly for campaigning for re-election as the federation’s president at Fifa’s congress earlier this week. Africa’s associations declared their support for Blatter during the subsequent press briefing.

The impeccable manner in which South Africa organised, managed and raised funds for an event of such magnitude showcased the continent’s advance abilities, Iya pointed out. Fifa itself gave the host nation the thumbs-up for its success and was more than pleased by the financial gains made.

Now the continent is pumped up for equally great events. “We are willing to organise other events,” Iya said. “We have really proved our capacity to do more things.”

African success on the pitch beckons

Besides encouragement from organising an acclaimed tournament, Africa’s hopes of achieving success in Fifa competitions are also on the rise.

The Black Stars, as the Ghanaian team is known, came very close to becoming the first African team to reach the semi-final stage at South Africa 2010. It was more a string of bad luck than poor performance that saw the team lose to Uruguay through penalty kicks in the quarter-final.

Despite bowing out in the group stage, the host nation’s team, Bafana Bafana, was applauded for its gutsy performance. Bafana beat a star-studded French team in its last World Cup match.

There was much to celebrate regarding Ghana. Most of the players in the World Cup squad came from the junior team that had just won the under-20 2009 Fifa World Cup, in which they beat Brazil in the final.

“We have proved that Africa is doing very well sporting-wise,” Iya said.

The number of African footballers plying their trade in European premier leagues is also on the rise.

However, according to Fifa, Africa still has a way to go before representation in World Cups can be increased. Currently, the continent can only send just about half its number of nations to the 32-team World Cup – which is in stark contrast to Europe.

While Europe had 13 teams in the 2010 World Cup, Africa had six. It’s not even questionable that European nations are stronger than their African counterparts on the field. Both finalists in last year’s event were European countries.

Blatter did not mince his words in saying the performance of African teams must improve before the continent can send more teams to tournaments. “We need the best players in the World Cup. Where football is concerned, show it in the field of play.”

Blatter did note, however, that the number of African teams in the tournament has improved quite significantly since the 1970s. Both the continent and Asia had single teams then, “that has changed now”.

National teams from the continent have a chance to redeem themselves in the 2014 Fifa World Cup, which will take place in Brazil.

Development looking good

Fifa is confident that it and local associations are on the right track with grooming new top footballers. “I’m sure that the African continent is on its good way in the development of football,” Blatter said.

He called on the continent’s governments to work closely with Fifa to further drive development.

First published by MediaClubSouthAfrica.com – get free high-resolution photos and professional feature articles from Brand South Africa’s media service.