Jul 11, 2012, 1:14 PM
The ongoing FIFA U-17 World Cup in Nigeria has so far been a show of embarrassment for the Africa's standard-bearers - Nigeria, Malawi, Burkina Faso, Algeria and Gambia. All of them except Nigeria have lost their matches; now Gambia has just lost two matches in a row. Even Nigeria that had enacted a dramatic comeback 3-3 draw against Germany in their opening match merely laboured on Tuesday night to a one-goal victory over Honduras, an underdog. The prospects of an African team making it to the final do not seem bright; their performance for now fluctuates between the lackluster and the negative.
Experts have opined that the weather takes its toll on the players generally. If that argument is accepted, then it should work to the advantage of the Africans because they are accustomed to the weather. It is the Europeans and South Americans who should understandably be withering in the sweltering heat, not otherwise. The weather bit is as much a reason as an excuse. The technical crews and players should try to get their act together before Africa the host continent is disgraced out of the tournament. They should draw inspiration from Ghana who has just won the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt.
African teams are celebrated for their sterling performance at this level. If they fail to acquit themselves well this time around, cynics will readily point to the fact that our previous successes had been due to age-cheating at this level. And that MRI test has exposed us for what we are - age cheats.
The greater burden is even on Nigeria who doubles as host and defending champion. And who has a track record of excellent performance at this level. They must win their next matches and ensure that they do Africa proud; otherwise, their shame will be more acutely felt by their fans and supporters around the world. The remaining teams should also spare no effort to redeem Africa's pride and prestige in world football by going all the way to win the trophy. It is not too late for any of the African team to spring a surprise just as Nigeria did against Germany, even though they should have done better by defeating the European champions.
The boys should have it in mind as they go onto the pitch that this is a tournament that Africa must win in order to stop cynics from scandalizing us. Good luck, boys!
"If you think squash is a competitive activity, try flower arrangement."