"European money hampering African football" - Ghana, Mali coaches voice similar concern before FIFA U17 World Cup QF
Ghana take on Mali in a blockbuster clash today.
This is the 17th edition of the FIFA U17 World Cup and in the past 16 editions, the continent of Africa has been the most successful given they have won the title seven times (twice by Ghana, five times by Nigeria), but when this success is compared to the performances the continent has in the senior FIFA World Cup, the results are abysmally poor.
The Ghanian coach, Samuel Fabin, and his Mali counterpart, Jonas Komla, had the same thing to say regarding the decline of African standards at the senior World Cup compared to the U17 variant, and it is their belief that players going to Europe early on in their careers even before they are mature enough and in search of money is what is hampering African football.
The players who go to Europe try to play the European style of football even when on national duty and that hampers the gameplay of African teams at senior World Cups as all the players are not used to the same style of football. Another big issue that needs to be addressed is the issue of African-born players going to Europe and not returning back to their motherland or willing to play for their motherland.
Ghana's Fabin raised this concern at the pre-match press conference ahead of his team's quarterfinal clash with Mali. "It is very important to go to Europe through the right channels, or else players go astray in Europe and I have seen a lot of African players lost in the dust just because they didn't go Europe through the right channels and agents.”
The Ghana team has put an embargo on agents and scouts from approaching their players during the FIFA U17 World Cup and even during the build-up. Fabin says if any teams are interested they can speak with the players' club in Ghana after the World Cup.
"Football is a way out from poverty for millions across the globe not only Africa but also in Asia, South America and other parts of the world," said Fabin when asked to comment on his statement that “Football is a way out of poverty in Ghana”, but he did add to it that “Poor boys going to Europe and swimming in millions is also hampering football as the player loses focus.”
That aside, the task at hand for Fabin and co today will be to see of a big challenger from their own continent, Mali. Mali have been taking giant strides in the recent past and came into this FIFA U17 World Cup as the champions of Africa.
“Boys in every corner of Mali start playing football at a very early age and we have a good youth program and coaching technique and we continue the good work through the U15 U17 and U20 levels to help players grow properly,” said the Mali coach Komla on the recent success of Mali in international football and specially the U17 World Cup.
Mali seemed to be confident ahead of their quarterfinal tie against Ghana as they have already beaten the Black Starlets twice this year once during the U17 Africa Cup of Nations and another during a friendly in Abu Dhabi.
Salam Jiddou, the Malian midfielder, stated that the mood in the dressing room is very good and all the players have a great bond which is evident by the viral locker room videos on social media where the players are seen practising secret handshake techniques and the famous "dab" celebration. He also added Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard are his idols in terms of celebrations.
Despite there being nothing to pick the two teams apart and Mali only having a slight advantage, Ghana coach Fabin felt previous results don't hold much value as today is a new day and game plus his team have learnt from their mistakes and are willing to showcase their top game tomorrow.