The 2018 World Cup soccer tournament is ongoing in Russia, with 5 African countries among the initial competitors. In the worst continental performance for decades, all African contestants have failed to make it past the first round of this tournament. Regardless of sentimental considerations about how well Africa's representatives have played to no avail, it is nevertheless a shame that fairly a long time after African soccer at the World Cup showed a lot of promise; no African country has yet justified being considered a favorite to win the tournament!
After the impressive performance of the Cameroonian national team at the 1990 World Cup, soccer legend Pele felt confident enough to predict that an African country will win the tournament before the turn of the 20th century. Indeed, Pele should have been more cautious on the subject, if only because the World Cup quarter-final reached by Cameroon may simply have meant Cameroon was no better than being the 6th or 7th strongest team in the tournament, which is still a long way from being the best!
To date, 28 years after the prediction, no African nation has reached the World Cup semi-final, not to talk of the final! This is somewhat disconcerting because an Asian country, South Korea, reached the tournament’s semifinal in 2002, despite the fact that Asia has less world cup slots than Africa. Africa by now ought to be doing significantly better than Asia and North America in World Cup performances, even if surpassing the Europeans and South Americans is still understandably a challenge!
When one considers the number of African players who have made great accomplishments in the round leather game, such as George Oppong Weah, Samuel Etoo, Abedi Pele, Didier Drogba and countless others, the gap between individual and national team success is perplexing.
Why has Pele’s prediction failed to come true? Some reasons for this are quite obvious, while others require below the surface analysis. Most are down to Africans’ administration of their football.