JOHANNESBURG - Africa's top players have
faced too much pressure at the World Cup, weighed down by the
hopes of a continent and a misguided belief that they alone can
swing the outcome of games, leading African football figures say.
Of the six African teams competing in the first World Cup
hosted by the continent, only Ghana have made it through to the
last 16. Ivory Coast play later on Friday, but their chances of
qualifying are slim.
The teams' disappointing showing has triggered soul
searching by players and football bosses across Africa.
France midfielder Patrick Vieira, who left his Senegalese
homeland at the age of 8, said African players such as Ivory
Coast's Didier Drogba and Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o had struggled
"When they play at Inter (Milan) or Chelsea, there are 15
stars to share the pressure," said Vieira, a World Cup winner in
1998 who was not picked for the French squad this time around.
"In football, one player can't win the game ... and it's a
big responsibility for the other players not to expect just one
player to make a difference," he told a news conference on
Friday at Johannesburg's showcase Soccer City stadium.
Most of Africa's best-known footballers spend most of their
careers at European clubs, making for a tricky transition when
they are called on to represent their nations.
"Maybe we're not playing the same 100 percent we do in our
clubs because we're earning our bread and butter there," said
Kalusha Bwalya, a former African Footballer of the Year and
president of Zambia's football association.
"The African player has to be able to come home and deliver
and I think this is a wake up call for us," he said, adding that
a dearth of home-grown coaches also needed to be tackled.
While many of the best players pack their bags in hope of
making their football careers in Europe, most national squads
import coaches. Of the six African finalists, five had
foreigners in charge.
Several teams also chopped and changed their coaches in the
run-up to the World Cup, drawing criticism from FIFA President
Sepp Blatter, a staunch supporter of African football.
Former South African player and coach Jomo Sono said the
fact that many coaches are foreign means squads are prone to
endure frequent changes.
"It's something wrong in Africa that the local coaches are
only good for the African Cup of Nations and when it comes to
the World Cup we have European coaches, which to me is
diabolical," Sono said.
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