By Nana Frimpong
Much action has been seen on football pitches across the continent during Africa’s ongoing 2014 World Cup qualification session, with some of it quite breathtaking.
Courtesy the sorry attitude of certain football federations/associations, however, no less action has taken place in the boardrooms of the African game.
THE STORY THUS FAR
A total of 15 points and as many goals have been lost and gained already as a consequence of a number of ineligible players being fielded by certain sides. Ethiopia, Gabon, Sudan, Togo, Burkina Faso and Equatorial Guinea have all been docked, with Botswana, Niger, Zambia, Cameroon, Congo, and Cape Verde (who have taken six points and six goals off Equatorial Guinea for the latter’s use of the same ineligible player, Emilio Nsue Lopez, in both qualifying legs between the sides) respectively benefitting directly in each case while quite a few more could yet reap from the long-term ramifications of these deductions and additions.
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While one or two instances might have been considered somewhat excusable, the numbers that have occurred thus far border on the scandalous. Exactly what, though, has motivated such ‘fraudulent’ incidents?
Well, blame it partly on the win-at-all-costs mentality that permeates across the continent and, indeed, in global sport. For countries in Africa and those of elsewhere, participation at the World Cup means everything. The financial rewards are huge, as is the exposure to be gained from even an average representation at the tournament.
Besides, Brazil 2014 is probably the most hyped and commercialised Mundial in recent times. Really, then, who would not adopt any mea ns – fair or foul – to appear on the biggest stage of them all?
Then there is sheer negligence, of the sort that comes with poor record-keeping and lack of attention to detail.
How else, otherwise, would the soccer authorities of Ethiopia and Togo not realise the ineligibility of Minyahil Teshome and Alaixys Romao respectively due to suspensions picked up not too long before? The use of Charly Moussono and Herve Zengue – both Cameroun-born players who have not yet successfully completed nationality switches – by Gabon and Burkina Faso respectively is equally as laughable as it is lamentable.
Sadly enough, these are mere forms of the very ill that plague African football: gross indiscipline. The erring Associations might get plenty of slack for their glaring misdeeds, but the buck ultimately stops with Caf, the continent’s football administrative body which apparently fails to educate, do their own checks, and enforce t he rules strictly enough.
Just why an ineligible player should be permitted to take to the field for a Caf-sanctioned game in the first place is hardly fathomable. Put simply, should Caf become more proactive than reactive and get its act right, its member Associations would be compelled to follow suit. Until then, there could only be more of such sour episodes.
Come June 2014, the five African sides that would line up alongside 27 others from the rest of world might not really be the most worthy of the tickets that would get them to Brazil. That quintet may merely be the more honest and careful of the bunch, but not necessarily the best football-wise.
Why, the same characteristically pathetic performances of old would ensue, of course. After the tournament ends, qualification for the next edition commences in earnest, the same errors would be made, the whole vicious cycle is set in motion, and Africa t hus establishes itself as its worse enemy.
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