Sunday, August 7, 2022

Whither African style?

Local football expert Jimmy George describes an African footballer as one that plays with endurance and energy. He believes African players should be allowed to play the game in a way that best suits their style of play. To him, Ethiopia is the only African team that epitomizes the African style of play and played it to near perfection and they deserved better than being knocked out of the Brazil 2014 qualifiers play-offs.

“The Ethiopians played the game the way Africa knows it. They played with so much pace, energy and endurance….that is how an African team plays,” he said.

George lamented that the African style of play is now being swallowed up and diluted because of the importation of European coaches into our national teams. He said the result is that now Africa does not have a recognized style of play. He added that Africa’s style of play should be profiled so that it becomes traceable through all stages of development from the grassroots.

“Africans should know what they want to achieve in their game and stop chopping and changing formations. We think hiring foreign coaches will deliver us to success and this is wrong,” said George.

However, he commended countries like Nigeria, Ghana and Algeria for using local coaches. But his commendation of Nigeria, an Africa football powerhouse, comes despite a disappointing goalless draw against lowly ranked Iran. George’s views about Africa were shared by one Rob Moran from Ireland, in a January 2000 edition of an online debate program called Talking Point. At the time, the BBC asked a question: “When will Africa win the World Cup?” Moran said: “Why do African nations always hire European coaches, many of whom have never been heard of at the top level of the European game? It seems to me that these guys are out to make a quick buck and have no love for the team or country. An African coach, with an African style and African skill – in 10 years time African would be world champions.”

Cameroon, coached by German Volker Finke, could prove George and Moran’s philosophy to be true. The team is performing dismally and lacks direction in their play. Cameroon lost their first two Group A matches, 1-0 to Mexico and 4-0 to Croatia. Their chances seem to be slim ahead of their meet with hosts and favorites Brazil next week. However Ivory Coast, coached by Frenchman Sabri Lamouchi, has been playing with much aggression and a bit more Italian style of play. Although their style is in contrast to what George calls the African style, Ivory Coast seem to be holding the hopes of the continent. They have won one game and unluckily lost against Colombia on Wednesday. They still have a chance provided they beat Greece next week and Colombia continues its winning streak.

Local legend Itumeleng Duiker, one of the most skillful and stylish players to ever grace the Botswana soccer fields, believes that nowadays football has changed as it is now business. Though he now prefers effective football which brings result, he insists that African flair is still useful. The former Gunners and Zebras midfielder said African football is about individualism while the European emphasis is on teamwork and cooperation. Duiker said European players do simple things on the ball and are successful while here in Africa we do a lot of things and tend to complicate the game.

“Europeans are better than us in terms of being successful in football, but they are not more skillful than us. We do not know how to use our skills….we use them for individual brilliance,” said Duiker.

On the other hand, be- MOBILE Premier League rookies Letlapeng coach Thaloba “Machine” Nthaga said the African style of play lacks discipline and direction.

“Teams should accommodate modern football if they want to achieve great things. Modern football does not necessarily mean boring and dull,” he said.

He added that no one can discourage skill or flair as they are part of football and can work for any team. He said the only problem is when the flair is misused or abused. Local football analyst, Stanley Mwaanga, said he does not see Africa’s failure in the world stage as a result of lack of style. Mwaanga said the issue lies with lack of proper football administration.

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