Dissected with the attention to detail of a legendary Masterchef 2nd season casting outcast , your good mate Uncle Bob serves up his weekly Half-Time Orange For Thought; a mental morsel for the sports fanatic with a healthy appetite for wholesome consumables. We at GSV have reluctantly declared ourselves accountable for any digestion difficulties that may or may not occur. Enjoy!
If one ever wanted tangible evidence of globalisation and its impact on the global community, one would only need to watch an international football tournament at any level and the names or birthplaces of some of the talent on display will leave one baffled and amused more often than not. There is a long standing common held perception in African football that young players with African roots, who leave the Motherland early or are born outside of the continent, do not have the desire to represent their “home” nations and if they are eventually coaxed to play for their African nations, their choices are seen as a fall-back plan for them if they feel they will not make the grade at the senior national team level for the “other” countries they are eligible to represent.
We have reached a pivotal stage in the development of African football where this misguided perception has begun to hamper the growth of our continents’ playing standards and led to there being a talent drain with regards to elite level calibre young players opting to bide their time and rack up youth team appearances in the hope of playing for their “other” nations as they feel no connection to their Motherland. We need to be accountable for our actions in this regard; these talented young players are developed to become elite level performers in foreign countries, they get shunned for call-ups and receive no communication from our African federations until they begin to attract the attention of their “other” nations and become known as promising players across the fraternity. They understandably begin to look at representing their African nations as a fall-back option to representing their “foreign” nations at senior international level as it puts them in better stead at the domestic level; one should understand just how much more valuable a player becomes when they are a fully fledged international footballer, that market value increases even further when that national team is a reputable and successful one.
As a parent, I would love for my South African children to don the Green & Gold, yet if the little snot balls feel more attachment to a nation that has aided in their development as footballers and has shown a considerable interest in making them full internationals, then I would back their decision not to play for Mzansi and support them when they play for their “other” national team. Call it unpatriotic if you will, but we as Africans need to decide just what it is we want for our football; do we want to play national teams packed with locally based and developed footballers that often fail to fulfil their potential due to a lack of furthered development and exposure, or do we want to field competitive national teams that fully represent the diversity and abundance of talent available to us on our blessed continent?
I have chosen not to mention the names of footballers that shunned playing for African nations and went on to become fringe players for their “other” nations, or players that have made the brave decision to play for nations in the Motherland and have had to endure victimisation for various reasons due to a perceived lack of patriotism or a misguided opinion that they are taking opportunities away from locally born and bred lads. Football is a universal language, if a player that was developed at a tiny independent academy in the unknown crevices of Africa is of the same potential level as a player that was nurtured at one of the finest football institutions in the realm, why should we not call them both up for junior national team training camps and official squads when they are still young and learning their trade? This holistic approach to truly developing the best possible national team players regardless of parentage or pigmentation will allow our continent to break through the current threshold and hopefully take another step closer towards that illusive senior men’s World Cup crown.
I would personally like to thank the brave individuals within our national federations that continue to canvass for the inclusion of foreign born or nurtured talent in our junior national team structures from an even younger age, this growing trend will bode well for us in the future as more and more talented young African starlets pop up across the football fraternity due to a myriad of factors that are rooted in globalization; we need to better our scouting networks and ensure that we elevate the standards of our national teams at all levels by always selecting the best available players to represent the nation. We witnessed how a tiny football nation like Equatorial Guinea managed to shock the fraternity with a squad mainly consisting of players that were not born in the country or developed on the continent, the federation did very well to track down players with Equatoguinean connections and their spirited displays will have created a new generation of Equatoguinean footballers dreaming of starring on the World stage while also inspiring countless foreign born and bred Africans to represent their nations from the Motherland, and Bob’s your Venda speaking Corsica born future French junior international one cap wonder of an uncle.