For the first time in the history of the FIFA World Cup Africa has six representatives. Because hosted in Africa, Africa has one more team than the five allocated by FIFA since 1998. The undeniable and remarkable performances of Cameroon in 1990 and Senegal in 2002 gives us many reasons to be optimistic and hopeful for African football performance in South Africa. The visible gain in competitiveness provides by African players in Europe boosts our hope for great performance of African teams at the World Cup. But other facts suggest otherwise.
In spite all the European base players African teams performance remained average at the World Cup in Germany in 2006. African players and global stars such as Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o and other African players achievements in Europe are great satisfaction for most Africans. But the reality may simply be an illusion of greatness for most of African football. Indeed the performance on the world stage, although satisfactory, remains average and below Africans expectations. Pele’s prediction “An African nation will win the World Cup before the year 2000″ yet to be realized. South Africa 2010 will probably not see Pele’s prediction happen. Playing in British Premiership, Bundesliga, Calcio or Liga is prestigious but does not automatically equate to exceptional teams and contrary it may have some long run consequences as discussed by Peter Alegi.
Expecting an African team beyond the quarter final is a dream. This dream coming through will definitively generate a collective feeling good across the Africa and its Diaspora. As well as South Africa hosting the World Cup, another quarter final will continue to scratch the surface of historical long lasting stereotypes about Africa. Like President Zuma all Africans, we dream about an African Victory. But realistically, for all African teams, reaching the second round or, who knows, another quarter final will be an achievement.