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Six points to save African football

Reaching the quarterfinals only three times in 13 World Cup appearances is a clear sign for Africa that something needs to be done.

Cameroon and Ghana have given the continent hope but there is a need to overhaul the game all round to avoid the light at the end of the tunnel becoming an oncoming train.

Firstly, there is a need for a lot of house cleaning in the continent’s football boardrooms. There is a need for people who want to serve the beautiful game, not be served by it. Throughout Africa, high hopes and expectations are counterweighted by meagre national resources, which are widely subject to corrupt pilfering. National football associations become sources of personal income, and people fight to become association presidents – not because they are experts in football development, but simply to have leverage over money.


When Caf created the African Nations Championship the aim was revive or strengthen national competitions regularly weakened by a mass exodus of top players, who leave their home countries to play abroad. On paper the idea makes sense but in execution it is fruitless as countries field players who are over the hill and fast approaching retirement, which cancels out the idea of development. If the idea really is about developing home-based talent then it would make more sense to also enforce all teams to be coached by a local coach. With matches being played outside the Fifa calendar dates, teams are reluctant to release their players. Caf should rather scrap the tournament and put the money in youth competitions or bump up club competitions’ prize monies.


It is no secret that the tournament is haunted by a number of challenges like scheduling, structure, and substandard venues. Because not all national domestic league’s calendars are the same time, maybe it’s about time the whole format be changed. Teams often moan about the costs involved in travelling around the continent, which don’t match the prize money and as a result clubs pull out or throw games. It would make more sense to change the format to be like that of the Africa Cup of Nations. Pick a host country and clubs play each other over a month. To make it even simpler, the qualifiers to the finals should be played regionally, with each region with a certain number of spots allocated to them based on their performance. This would increase interest from broadcasters, who bring revenue, and all teams will be afforded equal coverage. Above all that’s less travel and easy to budget for, unlike having to wait for the draw to see how far a team will have to travel around the continent.


If this Fifa system is fully adopted by Caf, our football would become a better product that would be much more attractive to sponsors. This system aims to professionalise clubs through enforcing safe training facilities and youth football development to good quality stadiums and professional, trained staff. Under this system age-cheating could be a thing of the past as players will be registered via fingerprint-based licence from a young age, which will help with tracking their progress and protect minors from unscrupulous transfer dealings. When one goes onto the internet to look up a European club development player, it’s amazing what you can find butyou can’t say the same about African players. This is the change we need.


There is a greater need for youth football club competitions like the Uefa Youth Champions League. This junior club tournament should be for Under-19s but clubs will be allowed to include a maximum of three Under-23 players in their overall list for the competition. Each Caf member association should also be able to run junior leagues that would be attractive to sponsors and that can only be achieved by fully adopting club licensing aspects. Countries with organised youth tournaments should be rewarded by means of points, which means they get seeded in international tournaments.


There is a greater need for the African media to promote local talent in their content. Clubs should have efficient media officers as well as brand managers who are always available to answer questions and above all protect the brand that a club is. What’s the purpose of a media office whose mobile phone is always off and never responds to emails? Each club or association needs to have a website or even a blogsite where information can readily be accessed, just like things are with our European counterparts. The rise of social media means clubs have a platform to put themselves out there, which in turn will force the media to take up their stories. Modern journalists are always on Twitter, hitting F5 on their computers after all in hunt for stories.


Issues of finance and African federations are quite complex. It becomes difficult to ward off government interference in sport when there are the ones who plough money into the game. However, if club licensing is adopted it will see federations and clubs’ books being out in the open for all to see, which would serve as bait for sponsors resulting in financial independence. Corruption will be curbed and perpetrators banned from the beautiful game. The issue of bonuses dominate headlines when African teams are set to play in major tournaments and that is something that could be addressed, as everyone will know how grants from Fifa, government and monies from sponsors were utilised.

I invite you all football loving fans to add your suggestions to carry our continent forward in football. Its time we hog the right headlines at World Cup or Afcon finals.

Follow @Clydegoal on Twitter

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