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South Africa 2010, vuvuzelas and octopus Paul

By Douglass Anele
The just concluded football extravaganza in South Africa, in my view, is one of the most interesting World Cup finals in recent history. Indeed, it is a pivotal achievement for FIFA, because it was the first time the soccer fiesta was held in Africa.

South Africa deserves to be the first country in the continent to host the world’s greatest football event. Apart from the excellent bid it presented to FIFA, the country has a relatively well developed economy and infrastructure.

Moreover, hosting the event is a fitting tribute to the greatest African statesmen alive, the madiba himself, Nelson Mandela. But about 100 days to the actual kick off on June 11, there was apprehension in certain quarters that the problems of insecurity and terrorist threats by a white supremacist group out to revenge the brutal killing of one of its leaders would derail the tournament.

Fears were also expressed about the high rate of violent crimes in South Africa.  At a point, FIFA and the LOC for the event were not sure whether all the tickets could be sold, or whether South Africans would turn out in large numbers to watch the remaining matches if their team, Bafana Bafana, was eliminated early in the tournament. As it turned out, the things people feared most never happened.

There were cases of robberies and transportation bottlenecks, but nothing that could have caused major disruption of the tournament occurred. The level of football mastery displayed in South Africa 2010 was not as high as most people expected, although there were occasional flashes of brilliance by presentation, Brazilian, German and Spanish teams.

Now, although Bafana Bafana was eliminated in the group stage, the team was not disgraced: at least, it defeated a former world champion – France. Ghana too tried, but Asamoah Gyan’s costly mistake of missing a penalty kick robbed his country the honour of being the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup. Nigeria’s participation was a complete disaster.

In 1994, the national team defeated Greece by three goals to nothing; 16 years later we were beaten two goals to one by Greece.

The implication is that we have retrogressed in terms of the quality of our national team, because the management of football in the country, just like the leadership of Nigeria as a whole, has been highjacked by a group of agbata ekee mediocrities that are more interested in making money than in providing service.

A lot have been said about how to revamp football in Nigeria, especially the senior national team. Nevertheless, unless Nigerian football is managed by individuals passionate about the game, people who are really interested in formulating and implementing well-conceived developmental plans for the growth of football, Nigerians that are prepared to invest their time, money and experience for the benefit of youth football in the country, our performance in Brazil 2014 will be worse than what happened in South Africa.

What about President Goodluck Jonathan’s policy somersault by reversing his earlier decision to ban the country for two years from taking part in international football events after FIFA had threatened to apply its rules against Nigeria?

I think it demeans the office of the President of Nigeria. Jonathan should have taken time to study the problems of football in the country first before making a decision about how the game can be rejuvenated. By reacting hastily and emotionally to the lackluster performance of the Eagles, he failed to display the level of “cool passion” which the German philosopher, G. W. F. Hegel, prescribed for leaders.

The reason Mr. President gave for changing his mind is ridiculous – that he responded to requests in his Facebook to unban the national teams.  Since when has Facebook become the source of policy decisions for Presidents?

Must Nigerian leaders act before they think? One of the controversial topics of South Africa 2010 was poor officiating and the need to use technology to help referees avoid mistakes during matches.

The most talked about error was the goal scored by England against Germany which the referee mistakenly discountenanced. I understand the concerns of those calling on FIFA to employ technology, like the Hawk’s Eye technology used in lawn tennis, to assist referees in making decisions about when a goal is scored or not.

But there is no other game like football in the world. It involves 22 players who are moving all the time chasing, kicking, and throwing a round leather object. As a result, it depends a lot on spontaneity and free-flowing uninterrupted movement to be enjoyed by spectators.

That is why FIFA has been resisting pressures to introduce avoidable, technology-assisted, interventions during matches.

However, because football has grown so big and is now a powerful economic, political, and psychological phenomenon globally, FIFA should balance the need to help referees make the right decisions with the necessity of preserving the spontaneity, drama and rhythm of football.

Any technological innovation, therefore, must fit naturally into the structure of the game.

My own view is that nothing can totally eliminate human errors in the field of play: perhaps, special goal posts and goal lines with sensors should be mounted in pitches such that anytime the ball passes completely across the goal line a special stopwatch worn by the referee will beep very audibly to alert him or her.

That way, there will be no need for the referee to interrupt the game to watch replays on a screen .TO BE CONCLUDED.


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