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Why do Africans tend to be under?achivers in General?

Jul 7, 2010, 2:19 PM | Article By: Dr. Lamin Sidibeh, Psychologist

As a former Physical Education and Sports teacher for many years, I cannot help expressing my sadness and disappointment over the outcome of the World Cup football match between Ghana and Uruguay.

The significance of Ghana's victory would have gone much more beyond the mere winning itself, but milestone recognition of Africans in world's football, a continent to reckon with. It would also have had a great psychological boost for other African national teams in global football.

It would definitely have paved the way for elevation and victories of African teams in general. But what is wrong with most African teams? Often they go thus far, just to drop at critical points.

The Ghanaian example is a very good one. I believe all in all, that the Ghanaian team was relatively a better side, both technically and in terms of endurance and stamina. They were skillful and they played well as a team.

To do justice, I wish to commend them for their efforts and performances in general. However, their fundamental problem to my mind was the team's relative inability to be persistently focused, and their apparent diminishing "fighting" spirit, especially at the tail end of the match.

In all fairness, the Uruguayan side was also a strong team and the game was quite competitive, even though I still contend that Ghana had a comparative advantage over them.

Even if we agree that both teams had similar potential, how come the Uruguayan team appeared to have had more determination and drives to win as they did?

Theories in psychology can attest to the fact that highly motivated children are those least likely to drop out of school. The same theory may apply to highly motivated adults in football.

In my experience as a keen follower in the performances of African teams in the world of football, some of them tend to begin quite well, but often drop out when they are expected to push on. What can we do about this because our hopes are often shattered? Do our teams lack adequate encouragement or are they suffering from some psychological problems? Are our teams always treated fairly by the referees? Theories in psychology further suggest that high achievement-motivation often has emotional roots.

High achievers learn to associate achievements with positive emotions and they often have strong coping abilities. There may also be cognitive (i.e. mental process) roots, whereby people attribute their achievements to their own competence and effort, raising their expectations and reinforcing their actions.

With these qualities, even if people are bribed into behaving otherwise, they will sustain their task if they attribute their involvement in the activity internally.


People are often motivated to perform with excellence when:

           Team work and group achievement is promoted

           People are matched with their tasks

           There is an environment to boost morale and output

           There is a strong psychological or mental will power and coping mechanism

           Incentives are created for excellence

Much as African football teams need to enhance their technical competence and physical fitness in the game persistently, I believe strongly that working on how to focus on the game and performance rather than on the opponent is extremely critical and should be further cultivated within the continent.

We need to work hard on the general phobia of  "inferiority complex." For example, the feeling that an African team cannot beat a European team or Latin American team.

I think our Gambian U-17 team had proven this notion very wrong by flocking Brazil in an away match in Peru.

Furthermore, the Senegalese national team once beat France. So, we can do it.