Continental Crisis; Africa Is Often Hailed as the Footballing Continent of the Future. It Looks like It Always Will Be
Beith, Malcolm, Newsweek International
Byline: Malcolm Beith
Rising out of the sand near a residential suburb of Dakar, the Demba Diop Stadium was beginning to fill up. Thousands of Senegalese fans sporting green, red and yellow national football shirts waited patiently in two orderly lines, while a band played West African tunes and groups of young boys sold bags of drinking water in the scorching spring heat. Less than two hours later, after enjoying their country's thrilling 6-1 victory over Liberia, the fans poured out of the stadium with an air of optimism. After all, the Lions of Teranga, as the Senegalese team is known, seemed headed to another World Cup finals.
That was March 2005, however. And like many another supposed African powerhouse before it, Senegal subsequently crumbled and failed to qualify for Germany. Every four years an African squad surprises the traditional powers and wins hearts around the world--Cameroon in 1990, Nigeria in 1994, Senegal in 2002. More and more players like Ghana's Michael Essien and the Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba are now linchpins on European club teams. The continent is the future of football, we are repeatedly told: South Africa will host the next World Cup, the continent's first, in 2010. And yet no consistent contender has emerged from the region. Out of this year's Cup teams--Angola, Tunisia, Togo, Ghana and the Ivory Coast--only Tunisia qualified in 2002. "African football is not developing in the slightest," says football expert Geoff Pearson. …