A Continent of stars, born stars, created stars, moulded stars and so on. Yet, a continent disrespected and looked down on. Fifty four countries on the continent, uncountable stars, one Ballon D’or winner, four premier league golden boot winners (claiming the award six times altogether). Countless are the numbers of stars that the continent have churned out, and still churning out so much so that almost every big club in Europe (the epicenter of football) have at least “one player of African decent” that is so pivotal to how they play.
The continent, known for producing the best despite having limited resources and under tight or limited budget, coupled with interference from some governments, have still made world stars out of raw talents. The list is endless. Despite the ability of the continent and her countries to thrive under limited resources, her most priced competition is still seen as unnecessary and was referred to as “small” in the words of Liverpool Jurgen Klöpp. Though the former Mainz 05 and Borussia Dortmund manager went on to say he was misinterpreted, some other popular faces of African football were still not pleased with Jurgen Klopp’s choice of word. Notable among them was former Teranga Lions of Senegal midfielder and current coach of the Senegalese national team Aliou Cissé.
European clubs have also tried all within their grasp to stop African players from participating at the tournament, frustrating the efforts of the national teams and sabotaging the efforts of the Confederation of African Football in making her own indigenous competition a sight to behold. Perhaps one of the biggest disrespect was a journalist asking French born Ivorian striker Sebastian Haller if he would prefer to stay at his club Ajax Amsterdam or participate in the African Cup of Nations. The big strikers response was swift and stern. “This question shows the disrespect for Africa,” he began. “Would this question ever get asked to an European player ahead of the EUROS? Of course I am going to the Africa Cup.” The tournament was actually supposed to be held in the summer, but was postponed due to Covid. In his conclusion, the former West Ham United striker mentioned that he would be representing Ivory Coast in Cameroon and that to him was the highest honour.
When would the disrespect and the biased views on African football be put to bed? When would the AFCON be regarded as a competition just like the Euros. the truth is that CAF need to put their house in order and make things straight with FIFA. There are to be tighter rules that should govern football clubs all over the world which would ensure that African players are just allowed to participate in their continent’s pride. Africa’s pride need to be restored and now is the time.