Jay-Jay Okocha blames the fall of African teams on lack of planning
For the second World Cup in succession Ghana qualified for second round of matches and will be Africa’s only representatives in the next stage.
With hosts South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Cameroon and Ivory Coast falling by the wayside, Ghana remained to fly the flag for the continent. They qualified for the last 16 despite a 1-0 defeat to group winners Germany, thanks to Australia’s victory over Serbia in the other match in group D on Wednesday evening.
Despite Bafana Bafana’s gallant attempt to qualify with a first ever victory over France, they became the first host nation to crash out at the first round. Nigeria followed when they could only draw with South Korea, and Algeria’s last gasp loss to USA saw them eliminated. With Cameroon already out and Ivory Coast with little chance of overhauling Brazil and Portugal, it has been a disappointing cup for Africa.
Ghana’s lone success has deflated the optimism that African teams would come into their own in what has been dubbed ‘Africa’s Cup.’
Commenting on the situation, SABC commentator and former Nigeria star Jay-Jay Okocha believes African football needs to “go back to the drawing board’ if it is to succeed in future World Cups.
The 36-year-old told BBC World Service that African nations were not going “that extra mile to get results”.
Okocha blamed a lack of investment in local coaches and youth players, adding that the continent’s big stars had not delivered on the world’s biggest stage.
“It’s about character. Our players have not shown enough passion,” he said.
“It’s an African tournament – we thought we could capitalise on that. That hasn’t been the story.
“In Africa I don’t think we plan enough. We always wait for an event and then get ourselves ready for just that event.”
He believes that if African football is to move on, coaches as well as players should look to foreign leagues to gain expertise and professionalism.
“I thought that the officials should be given the opportunity as well to go abroad and update themselves – but we haven’t done that. We’ve not invested in our local coaches,” Okocha commented.
“After going to Europe to prove yourself as a player you come back to that old mentality – that old way of playing.
“Then sometimes players get caught in the middle. They try to bring you down to their own level – and if you don’t want to come down to that level, it’s as if you’re losing your culture, losing your respect.”
Okocha, who retired from football in 2008, had scathing words for some of Africa’s better known players, criticising their performances when compared to those for their clubs.
“I don’t have to cover up for those players because they haven’t really performed. They’ve underachieved,” he stated.
“It’s all about character. I don’t think our players have shown enough passion for the game. That’s the difference between the way they’ve played here, and the way they play in their various clubs.”