Culture of Soccer Week 6 (The World Cup: Africa on the World Stage) Comment

Each week we are to respond to another student’s post.   Hollow79 examined how the World Cup led to further improvements in South Africa before moving on to player development on the continent.  Africa continues to produce quality players but in today’s football economy, these players move to Europe and Hollow79 brought attention to the  lack of grassroots support for the game in Africa.

Here was my response to the post:

Your comments about talented players “Africanizing” European football caught my eye.  The video lectures mentioned African superstars that dotted European football during the twentieth century (Larbi Ben Barek, Lucas da Fonseca, Salif Keita) but towards the late 90’s, an explosion occurred which saw Africans not only play for top level clubs and succeed but populate teams in every country and every level.  George Weah is the most obvious example of success at a high level, along with Kanu, Samuel Eto’o, Essien and many others, yet look at Africans at lesser known teams—Manucho at Real Valladolid, Odemwingie at WBA, Steve Zakuani in Seattle.

Later in your post you make reference that fans at home criticize players for leaving.  I have no complaints with players searching for greater competitive challenges as well as a better paycheck.  The best players of North and South America do the same as there is a funnel towards the top leagues in Europe and the top club competition in the Champions League.  But I do agree with your suggestion about focusing on grassroots efforts for the game.  The gap between elite and the recreational/amateur cannot grow too wide because it effects participation, the domestic leagues and the quality and depth of the national teams.

  1. In regard to players leaving, while it makes a great “feel good” story, the fact is that many of the leagues from these player’s home towns are either terrible or not very good (looking at you MLS) and in order to improve they SHOULD go somewhere else. By leaving and improving they are actually helping their home nation for international play. I think the USMNT is a perfect example of this. If the best players had merely stayed and played int he MLS rather than going abroad, I don’t know that we would be as competitive (and we all know how far they still have yet to go). So I agree that we should not begrudge players the opportunity to not only make a better living for themselves, but also to improve their craft.

  2. Think we’re in agreement. Imagine Dempsey still in the MLS. Would he be US captain? Doubt it. As always, thanks for reading and commenting.

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