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SAFA President: Too Many Foreigners in African World Cup Teams

  • Africa was the worst-performing continent with all five representatives exiting at the group stages.

    Africa was the worst-performing continent with all five representatives exiting at the group stages. | Photo: Reuters

Published 1 July 2018

“We need to revisit the issue of awarding citizenship... Morocco had four Spanish-born players... four of Dutch heritage and five who were born in France."

Russia proved to be troublesome for the African continent's soccer teams. This is the first World Cup tournament, since 1982, that no African team was able to advance from the group stage.

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“It is a huge blow for Africa. The timing could not have been worse as we will struggle to push for better representation when the issue is decided at the next FIFA Congress,” South African Football Association (SAFA) President Danny Jordaan said Friday.

“We need to revisit the issue of awarding citizenship to players who have links to our countries. If you look at the Nigerian team, not many play in the domestic league, and some had been awarded citizenship, meaning they were not developed in the country,” Jordaan noted.

“Morocco had four Spanish-born players who are plying their trade in Spain, four of Dutch heritage and five who were born in France. This means three-quarters of the team was made up of players who were not born and bred in the country. I’m not sure whether that’s a wise thing to do.”

According to the SAFA chief, this dismal showing may affect Africa's continental places in future tournaments. “It is the first time that not a single African country made it to the second round. This could have serious implications for the 2026 World Cup.”

Africa was the worst-performing continent with all five representatives – Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Nigeria and Senegal – exiting at the group stages. Africa's best showing remains quarterfinals in 1990 (Cameroon), 2002 (Senegal) and 2010 (Ghana). Since 1982, when Algeria and Cameroon exited at the group stage, at least one African nation has moved through to the knockout stage.

Côte d’Ivoire's iconic soccer player-turn-TV analyst, Didier Drogba, said the underperformance of the teams is a “big step back,” but that “it is a chance for all the African teams and for the African Confederation maybe to reconsider the strategy” regarding how to move forward.

"What do we want to do in the next World Cup? We have the potential, we have the money to develop, but we need more than that. We need to have the consistency and the structure of the European teams and the South American teams.”

Jordaan further stressed that a lack of motivation and devotion to country, by foreign-born players, was the main problem in Russia, adding that it will remain an issue for future tournaments unless it is addressed.

“You could see how passionate South Americans are about their countries, from the singing of the national anthem right through the game. You don’t have to look any further than the emotions displayed by Diego Maradona when Argentina played, (and) René Higuita and Carlos Valderrama during Colombia’s matches,” the SAFA president explained.

“What about Neymar Jr. breaking down and crying after Brazil won? That is the kind of passion that was lacking in some of the Africa players. You could even see (it in) their body language when their teams conceded a goal, unlike the Japan and Korea players, who made it obvious that they were prepared to die with their boots on for their countries.”

The president detailed a plan, specifically for the South African association, which involves developing quality coaches, creating structured competitions for juniors, establishing world-class football academies and finishing schools as well as effectively incorporating sports medicine and proper dietetic for players.

“We (Africa) need structured development. We can no longer rely on a miracle generation such as the 1996 Bafana Bafana [South Africa's national soccer team's nickname] squad, Ghana’s Under-20 team that won the World Cup in 2009 or the Cameroon and Nigeria generation of players that won Olympic gold medals.”

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