Endorsement of African Potential from Unexpected Quarters

Posted: 2010-03-21 in Uncategorized

What will you remember most about the 2010 edition of the World Cup in South Africa? Will it be the $ 348 million prize money given to all teams from the knockout stages to the final (ranging from eight for each team exiting after the group stage) to 30 million for the winner)? Will it be the spectacular stadia or will it be an interesting disciplinary record – 28 suspensions after being shown two consecutive yellow cards (13 players), a single red card (8 players), or a yellow card followed by a red card (7 players)?

There have been allegations that FIFA pushed South Africa, a developing country, to spend well above the planned budget of $ 3 billion. The final expenditure came to about $ 18 billion! This is in a nation where about 50% of the population falls below the poverty line.

Articles such as this one by the New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/24/sports/soccer/24safrica.html?_r=1, seem to imply that outside forces, of which FIFA is one, had more of a say in the running of such an event than the host country.

A related article by The China Post reported that Africa’s eminent statesman, Madiba, was even made to attend the final ceremony, http://www.chinapost.com.tw/international/africa/2010/07/12/264228/FIFA-pushed.htm.

Is all this “pushing” bad? It was American statesman and inventor, Benjamin Franklin, who observed the following about the so-called American Dream, ‘The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself’.

Veteran journalist, David Lamb’s in his book, The Africans, made the following observations: The River Congo, one of Africa’s biggest rivers, has enough water to irrigate and produce food, six times more than the continent needs, and enough to generate three times more electricity than needed! If that doesn’t describe potential I don’t know what does.

The history of the world’s second largest continent is one of perennial under achievement, lack of patriotism especially from the political class, and plunder of resources by foreign entities. It is also a history of low self-esteem, lack of self-belief, despair and pessimism.

My chief sadness is the pushing has to come from Joseph “Sepp” Blatter and FIFA, not the result of self-initiative by the continent’s leadership. This to me is a crying shame.

The clamor for independence brought with it the underlying belief that we could achieve anything we set out to. This has not been the case but hosting the World Cup can form part of a renaissance, a step at a time.

Regardless of what you choose to remember and treasure about WC 2010, Africa has to use such success as a stepping-stone to our desired place among the elites and greats.

After all, let us never forget that Alexandria in Egypt once hosted the world’s biggest library. The Christian fathers, the likes of Origen, Tertullian, Cyprian, Clement and Augustine of Hippo all originated from this continent.

We can do it, a step at a time.

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