IN AFRICA itself, professional football doesn’t do so well, certainly not the club leagues.
I’m afraid that, for all the solemn promises and grandiose schemes from Fifa, this will continue.
It is truly history-making that Morocco reached the World Cup semi-finals.
It shouts to the powerhouse football countries that elite-level coaching in the lesser developed world is first-class.
And the skills are by no means taught by expats, all five countries that made it to Qatar were head-coached by Africans.
So, we know they have the talent both on and off the pitch to succeed on a world stage.
Where the difference lies is that the average footballer in Africa, from Morocco to Zimbabwe, earns £7,000 a month while the average Premier League wage is more than £250,000 a month.
This is not a reflection of talent, but a direct reflection on the difference in the domestic leagues’ organisational structures as well as the broadcast rights and sponsorship revenue that each generate.
The knock-on effect for the African domestic game is that outstanding footballers are quickly made to realise that fortunes are made in Europe, way beyond national boundaries, where top football is easier to come by and wages are much, much higher.
Now the USA, Japan and the oil states are also tempting their players, emptying Africa of many riches. As ever.
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Much of Africa is football barmy but actual progress on their own fields has been gradual, not least because of the lack of equipment, issues around fan safety and the mere fact trim grass is not readily available.
That has never stopped boys or, increasingly, girls playing the game but unforgiving pitches, from sand to rock, take some overcoming.
Fifa have plans to help.
Publishing accounts isn’t their strong point but it is believed they have spent £2.5billion on worldwide assistance in the last six years.
Divide that among about 200 countries and include too many fat, old committees and employees with a liking for posh offices, pleasant hotels and fleets of cars of their own.
Fifa profit on the Qatar competition alone is about £7bn.
In the long run, old-fashioned free-market economics will probably work better than dutiful charity because by all accounts the footballing countries of Africa teem with scouts watching out for talent.
In time, I hope big TV fees and richer citizens may boost domestic clubs to the point where, say, 20 would form national Premier Leagues which pay players competitive salaries and retain their talent.
Back in 1977, Pele predicted: “An African nation will win the World Cup before the year 2000.” That didn’t happen but they are edging closer.
The precedents for the standard of domestic African football are not good.
And it isn’t going to be much helped by the plan to have at least nine teams from the continent playing at the expanded World Cup 2026 if the focus remains on individual talent playing outside of Africa, rather than national team development inside of Africa.
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