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Footballers' stories are being lost


The death of former Cameroon midfielder Mfede Paul-Louis has saddened me deeply.

I never met the man but I liked his style of play and his left foot that was powerful yet delicate. He was a member of the team that won the Afcon in '88 and thrilled the world two years later at Italia '90. Rest in peace sir.

Paul-Louis joins other notable Afcon winners that have died recently, including Theo Abega, the Cameroonian Afcon '84 winning captain, and Nigeria's '80 winner Okey Isima. These departures fill me with sadness because I do not think these men wrote books or published their memoirs so we can know what they went through in their careers.

Here I am going to try and deal with two distinct but related issues arising from the feelings I have whenever an African football legend passes on.

In Europe it is a common thing for successful football stars to write books coming to the end of their careers; some even write while they are still playing, especially after major tournaments or successful seasons.

Why do we not do so in Africa? Why is someone like Mark Fish not telling his story of what it was like playing abroad? Or Sunday Oliseh? El-Hadji Diouf has had a colourful career and I am sure he will have plenty to tell, starting from his exploits with Senegal at the 2002 World Cup.

It is not enough for us to watch snippets of their interviews with European programme makers. We as a continent need to tell our people's stories ourselves. This is the point where I say kudos to Thomas Kwenaite on his documentary on the '96 Bafana Bafana Afcon winners. I had the pleasure of watching this documentary while I was in South Africa for the last tournament and I was happy. It will be better if the documentary can be on DVD so that it will be in homes.

As a continent we are in danger of losing generations to the influence of European football. We have teenagers who are more likely to recall histories of European football and footballers than they can recall African players and teams. How many people remember Kalusha Bwalya's excellent hat-trick against Italy at the 1988 Seoul Olympics football event?

The second point for me is that this lack of a historical view of our continents football makes it harder to have a discussion on who were the greatest African national teams. It should be had. It should be discussed freely and then videos made available for younger generations to watch and join the discussion.

I am fortunate enough to remember the Algerian sides that qualified for two World Cups in the ‘80s but never won an Afcon. In the same period, a Cameroonian team qualified for one World Cup but played in three straight Afcon finals, winning two. They then made the quarterfinal of the '90 World Cup.

It is criminal that there is no proper documentary made by Africans of the Cameroon team at Italia '90 and the Senegal team of 2002.

A distinct lack of compilation videos/documentaries of the great sides from an African perspective, tend to make this kinds of discussion hard to start.

The time has come. Do you know any former international in your country? Start speaking to him, write things down and you just might have a great story to tell.

For those African football legends who have passed on with their stories not documented, accept my apologies. Hopefully, we can use videos to keep your memories alive. Rest in peace.

Which was the greatest African national side for you? Let me know and you can also follow me on Twitter: @CalvinEmeka.


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