Opportunity To Reflect – African Football

by Ayo Tunde
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A lot of lives have been changed with this coronavirus pandemic that’s hit us this year. For many countries, the economies have been struggling.

But more importantly, the people are groaning.

We wake up on a daily basis now, to news of one big company or the other going into administration, liquidation thus laying off thousands of their workers. So many have gone jobless. The ones in places where they have not been laid off, have been placed on ridiculously reduced pay.

Times really are hard.

Football has been hit real bad. Many clubs in Europe are studying their finances and deciding what to do. But there is a determination in most European countries to ensure that football does survive this period and they are doing all in their power.

Now talking to most people in other sectors; people who are in jobs where they are now on half pay, people who have totally lost their means of livelihood; many of them also declare that this becomes a time when they could sit back, reflect on their lives and see whether this is a good time to change tack and go into other ventures that would serve their interests and careers….and finances better.

I am concerned for Africa. African football also needs this reflective attitude. Because the continent can be heading into football bankruptcy if care is not taken.

The pandemic has paralysed football everywhere and Africa is no exception. So, one after the other, each country started declaring an end to football activity, which meant that most players and officials of clubs were not earning.

Meanwhile the African continental competitions were not exempted from this traumatic period. The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations was shifted by a year. The African Women’s Cup of Nations scheduled for later this year was cancelled completely.

Most leagues do not know when they will start again. There is no clear guidance yet.

There is no income generated in football in Africa today. Even the continental championships and the Africa Cup of Nations, had it gone ahead on schedule of January 2021, would probably have been run at a loss, and with limited, if any television coverage. COVID was a relief for the operators of football in Africa as it staved off the embarrassment of having a negative-return tournament for the first time in a long while.

FIFA has come to the rescue, and sent loads of money to African football, directly to national associations, making some able to actually operate in these times.

But it is really a time to reflect and think – think deeply on what really is good for African football post-pandemic.

How can football grow and what will become of the future of generations of footballers who depend on football – their skill and talent – to make a living?

African football is a brand in itself. It has produced great people in all sectors. We have had top administrators in football like Pape Diouf from Senegal, flying its flag at high levels. We have had great coaches in Africa who have done us proud worldwide – Hassan Shehata and Stephen Keshi come to mind. And we have had numerous players – tons and tons of players – whose respective and collective contributions make it hard to imagine why the African soccer brand is not being ‘rushed’ as a marketable product. Remember George Weah? PRESIDENT George Weah! He’s a product of football in the continent of Africa. How can it be hard to make a proper brand of it?

So, like the young career worker who was laid off by his employer and has decided to use this period to reflect on who he really is and where he wants to go from here; Africa the continent, in the context of its football, run by the people that actually are, collectively as a continent but also in their respective individual nations, also need to use this period to reflect and decide what really is happening, where the continent goes from here and how to build the game, and give hope to generations of youngsters who depend on their leadership to use their talent to provide livelihood for themselves and their families.

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