African Football

To understand what African football is, you can only see it with your own eyes. It’s awesome energy, hail of blows from all distances, a cascade of magnificent tricks and at the same time – inexplicable holes in defense, rigidity and even rudeness, numerous scandals.

How Africa left a mark in the history of football for the first time

During the years of its greatest prosperity, the British Empire confidently quartered on all continents of the planet. A lot of territories and people living on them swore allegiance to Queen Victoria. In the 70s of the XIX century “the empire, over which the sun never sets,” continued to pursue the heavenly body, having started to expand its possessions in South Africa. However, not everything was so simple.

Romans at one time were very disturbed by one small and recalcitrant Gallic village. The British had even more difficult, because they were faced with the whole country, located on the southeast coast of Africa. She was called Zululand, or the Land of the Zulus, and at that time she managed to maintain her independence and the army that had been developing for years. Relations between the English colonies and the Zulus completely deteriorated by the end of 1878, when the first put forward an ultimatum to the king of Quechwayo – Zululand was to become a British protectorate, which he refused to accept. For the British, this, in fact, was the main reason for declaring war, which began on January 22, 1879 with a shocking defeat at the battle of Izandlvan Hill and ended on July 4 with the burning of the royal residence at the Battle of Ulundi. Britain achieved victory, but it did not immediately succeed in ending the independence of the Land of Zulus.

A month later, thousands of miles from the battlefield, on the North Sea, in the town of Scarborough, Yorkshire, a match was held in which the local team was confronted by a team that called themselves “Zulus”. Who they were, how that game ended, and other details remain unknown. Nevertheless, this case was not the only one. On November 10, 1879, the mysterious Zulus appeared again, now at Bramalle Lane, to face off with the Sheffield Football Association. The event was under the patronage of the mayor of the city and gathered about 2,000 people. Mysterious guests arrived at the game in cabs and appeared on the field with assegayas (a kind of spear) and shields in their hands, which were delivered directly from the site of recent battles, but for some reason did not go. According to press assurances, the game was dynamic,;the viewers got real pleasure from the match, which ended with the victory of the Zulus with a score of 5-4.

If you dwell on this moment and try to imagine how guys from far away Africa come to Victorian England to play football and show that their people are not broken, then this story would deserve at least one book about themselves. But it looks too unreal. The author of the report on that game in Sheffield Independent did not at all keep the intrigue and readers in the dark, at the very beginning of his material explaining that no one is Zulus. In January 1881, some resentment flared up in Sheffield newspapers about the absence in the recently announced squad of the North for the match with South Jack Hunter, “one of the best, if not the best midfielder among the northerners.” William Pierce Dix, member of the selection committee and honorary secretary of the Sheffield FA, on the 22nd did not slow down in describing the situation in his letter to the Sheffield Daily Telegraph.

Acknowledging the skills of Hunter, he first turned to the “Zulus”, explaining that “in the opinion of the committee, the manner in which they played their games causes continuous damage to the game and discredits everyone connected with this team”. Moreover, the Secretary of the Association said, these players get money for their performances, which was unacceptable and inexcusable in the era of amateurishness. In view of all this, Mr. Dix recalled that on February 9, 1880, the committee decided that “in the future, any player who took part in a “Zulu” match or who was rewarded in any way would be removed from all games under the auspices of the Association”.

Ultimately, all the “Zulus” were disqualified, but it was not clear why this took about a year. Such an inconsistency of the committee’s actions two days later was rightly condemned in Sheffield Independent by one gentleman under the pseudonym “Vice President”. He asked why the committee was inactive, when the Zulus played five matches, starting in March 1880, and some of them played for the Association team? He didn’t understand why the monetary component doesn’t harm cricket when the leading players get remuneration for their services. And he reproached the annual payments to Dix at a rate of 25 pounds, adding that he was familiar with the state of affairs of most regional associations and is not practiced in any such, because it is well known what is meant by the position of honorary (read: unpaid) secretary. Finishing his message, Vice President expressed hope that “the Association Committee will understand what mistake it made and openly admit it, allowing Hunter to play in the match”. However, no one was going to correct or acknowledge anything and the meeting of northerners and southerners scheduled for January 22, by the way, was postponed to February due to too bad weather.

Talk about the fact that someone plays football not for “just like that” was conducted before that, but there were no serious consequences to observe. The Sheffield FA considered the activities of Mr. Brewer’s wards a brutal attempt on the amateur status of football and considered it her duty to immediately put out this hotbed of flaming professionalism. For William Pierce Dix, the whole story with the expulsion of players came back incredibly quickly. On January 24, in the Cup final of the Earl Warcliffe Cup, “Wednesday” defeated Sheffield Healey, who played without Hunter, with a score of 7: 2. The duties of the referee at this meeting were performed by Dix, referring to the species Judex sedentarius (the inactive judge). At the very end of the match, when nothing interesting had happened, the disgruntled crowd broke into the field for a specific purpose and, being fully aware, began to lynch the honorary secretary. To their misfortune, all efforts went down the drain, because William Pierce Dix survived and soon resigned.

The case took a very unpleasant turn, and the “Zulus”, in order to return to the game for their clubs, could only repent and apologize for the behavior that is tarnishing the very essence of football. Sheffield FA, without thinking twice, relented and redeemed the negligent players. The story decided to confine itself to conjectures and did not retain any reliable evidence that the organizers of the games or anyone else paid for the Sheffield Zulus. But be that as it may, they were forced to curtail their amazing charitable campaign, which probably helped the needy somehow. And no one else has seen these people with shields, these feathers in their heads, and these faces smeared with burnt cork in the stadiums.

Now among the greatest clubs there are the following:

  • Zamalek SC (Egypt);
  • Al Ahly Cairo (Egypt);
  • Raja ca Casablanka (Morocco);
  • Canon Yaounde (Cameroon);
  • Hafia AC Conakry (Guinea);

Throughout its history African football has given us tremendously talented players. These players have always been distinguished by excellent physical training, but they lacked a “school”. That is why before they were perceived as lovers who do not use tactics, do not accept the rules. But what not to take away from African footballers is talent. Every year, African footballers add to their professionalism. And look at the current generation of football. European grants (for example, Ajax) began to open football schools in Africa. And it brought us a whole scattering of famous football players. Today, Samuel Eto’o, Rigober Song, Celestin Babayaro, Nwankna Kanu, El Hadj Diouf, JJ Okocha, Quinton Fortune, Didier Drogba won our hearts.

What nuggets will bring us the future?

Today football on the African continent is particularly developed in the following countries: Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Congo, Ghana, Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia. The favorites of African football today are the teams of Nigeria, Cameroon, Senegal and South Africa. Today, African club football is in dire need of funding. And teams need to inculcate organization and discipline. In addition, Africa has its own peculiarities, its own mentality.

Unfortunately, on the African continent that stage of civilization has not yet been reached when it will be safe to attend football matches. People die in the crowded tickets; the games are stopped when fans start throwing stones on the field, set cars on fire and rob stores at the end of the game. African sports officials are taking no action to stop the atrocities committed by fans of the losing team. The culture of behavior among African fans is not yet available. Of course, the African Football Confederation can do little, due to the fact that most of the stadiums are owned by states. Today it is believed that football matches on the African continent are very poorly organized, the stadiums have poor security and are inconvenient for spectators. This leads to a decrease in the attention of sponsors, television channels.

Football in Africa is full of prizes. For the best player of the match give 5 Internet gigs. Or two packs of beer. Do not even slippers. In Africa, do not bother with some sort of rules. If the goalkeeper plays with his hand outside the penalty area, the match will simply continue. In general, no one will pay attention to it. Football in Africa is a unique feint. In Africa fans are the most loyal. At the match, you can see anything, for example, as a coach steals a shaman’s amulet from the goalkeeper of opponents during a penalty shootout. 40 thousand fans fit in the 25 thousandth stadium. Here the club from the second Egyptian division plays in the form of Bayern Munich. Are you the goalkeeper of Gazl El Mahalla but you are supporting Liverpool? No problem: play in the form of “Liverpool”, to you it suits more than Carius. African goalkeepers are the best. One scores through himself in the 90th minute.

African football: how do they play in Nigeria?

In 2010, the state intervened in the affairs of the national team: the then Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan decided that since the 2010 World Cup the team was not brilliant, it should be removed from international performances for two years. For this, FIFA imposed sanctions on the national team, since, according to its rules, the government cannot dictate such conditions to the players. After that, Goodluck Jonathan took his words back, and everything was back to square one.

Many Nigeria footballers managed to play or continue their careers in famous European clubs. For example, loot at 22-year-old Alex Iwobi who is midfielder of Arsenal in London and part-time nephew of the legendary Nigerian player JJ Okochi. Ivobi has been at the Arsenal since he was 8 years old; he represented the English club in all age categories, and made the decision to play for the national team of his native country with his family. Entebo Ogenekaro, striker of the Spanish club Las Palmas and the bronze medalist of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro – another star in Nigeria. In 2015 he was recognized as the Talent of the Year in Africa. At the Olympics in Brazil in a match with the Japanese team, he scored four goals at once. Victor Moses, one of the key players of the Nigerian national team, is from Chelsea, and the club has long sought it out and paid a considerable amount for the transfer. Previously, he managed to play in “Liverpool”. Interestingly, Moses, while still in the youth team, played for England, but then decided to defend the honor of his native Nigeria.

At the helm of the African team is Gernot Rohr – 64-year-old German coach. He previously worked in France, played for Bordeaux, and moved to the African continent in the late 2000s. Here he immediately became a respected specialist. He spent quite a bit of time in Tunisia, then a couple of years in Gabon, in Burkina Faso and now he has been training Nigerians for the third year.