African football at crossroads
I was initially excited when I heard that Presidents of football federations across the continent will converge to the idyllic holiday island of Seychelles next week and I thought it was time they sat down and debated as to where African had missed the sign post during the last couple of years.
Let's face it, African football has lost direction and we have become an embarrassment and a laughing stock of the world. We are the first to arrive and the first to go home from major football tournaments. Our inability to administer the game professionally has become legendary.
We seem obsessed in hiring foreign coaches (mind you there is nothing wrong in that) but we do it so haphazardly that we seem to be making a fashion statement. We hire foreign coaches for wrong reasons without applying our minds thoroughly and we then fire them before they have even settled down.
Africa staged the World Cup on the continent and five of the six representatives were the first to pack their bags and go home. We have again exited in the first round from the London Olympics and our youth teams continue to fall down like dominoes in age restriction competitions.
African Nations Cup winners spend in excess of US$10-m in preparation for the biennial tournament. Yet at the end of this three week African fiesta, the winner takes home a pitiful pay packet of an estimated US$1.2m at a time when corporate companies are pouring in millions of dollars into the game.
The Confederation of African Football's marketing arm SportsFive charges national broadcasters across the continent fees ranging from US$2m-5m before they can offer them the right to broadcast the African Nations Cup tournament. We are falsifying the ages of our youth in age category competitions.
And these are but some of the issues I thought African leaders would be grappling with when they converge to the Seychelles. I was excited because I thought it was time African federation presidents tackled all these challenges facing the game and facing Africa as a continent.
But I was wrong. I understand that the main issue on the agenda will be a plethora of constitutional amendments, some of which involves blocking candidates who are not executive members from challenging Issa Hayatou as president. What is exactly wrong with us Africans that we seem to fiddle even when our shack dwellings are on fire?
We are less concerned about why only Ghana progressed from the group stages of the 2010 Fifa World Cup. We neither care as to why Banyana Banyana and Cameroon crashed out of the first round in the Olympics Games, no, we would rather put draconian measures in place to prevent people from encroaching into our fiefdom.
Why are more African players collapsing and dying of cardiac failure? Why are our football grounds in such pitiful states? Why more clubs seem to be losing interest in participating in both CAF Confederation Cup and African Champions League?
Jacques Anouma of Ivory Coast is the only brave man who has said enough is enough and time has come to embrace change. He is the only exception among federation presidents who are all cowering in the dark to come out and announce that we cannot continue blundering like blind men when other nations are making progress.
Anouma, I am told, intend announcing his candidature for the CAF presidency, because he feels he can offer the African continent something that could help us extricate ourselves from our shameful corner. Yet knowing our refusal to embrace change, Anouma faces a dangerous path strewn with landmines.
There are already murmurs doing the rounds even before he has publicly announced his candidature, that strong forces opposing change are already plotting to disgrace him and paint him as an ogre that is driven by selfish ambitions, because they are comfortable under the present regime and fear inevitable change.
Hayatou has served Africa since 1988 and it is time he stepped down gracefully and allowed a new leader with new and fresh ideas to assume leadership of the continent and perhaps elevate it to another level as African football seems to have retrogressed sharply during the last couple of years.
Serious challenges are facing Africa and the continent need strong sons and daughters with resolve and who are blessed with leadership qualities to take off the albatross hanging so shamefully over our heads and lead the continent to a brighter future that beckons.
And I sincerely hope and pray that we will refrain from ogling bikini clad women sun bathing on the beach but realise the magnitude of the challenges facing us and seize the opportunity to engage in a healthy debate and come up with solutions to the problems confronting us as a continent.