I thought hard, but I could not find a suitable title for this piece. I thought of “Fallen Leaves”, for instance; yet that was not satisfactory, since to “fall” implies that one must have stood at some point. Certainly, that cannot be said of the African teams in the FWC tournament. One cannot dare say, “They have once stood and now falling.” Many people may disagree with this assertion and might—wrongly?—point to Senegal to argue that the Lion of Teranga are an exception to this sweeping generalization. But that would certainly be a sloppy point to make. In fact, the glaring truth, the undeniable truth remains that the Senegalese team has shown that they neither a “lion” nor of “teranga”. And most certainly, if they were a lion, it must have been an herbivorous lion, a spineless lion. But how? I shall come to that shortly. Suffice to say, for now, that Senegal has not been an exception any more than Nigeria has proven unreliable.
Out of five (05) in total, zero African team has managed to pass the group stage: Egypt was a terrible joke—and Mo Salah a pitying soul—as were Tunisia and Morocco. In all fairness, however, Tunisia could not have been expected to do any better in a group where one finds England’s Three Lions and the seemingly unbeatable Belgium squad; nor would one entirely blame Morocco had they not thrown three winnable points out of window against Iran. Indeed, while Tunisia has, by beating Panama, striven to make up for the disastrous run, Morocco’s tying up with Spain has defied their invincibility and may have offered a strategy to the hosting team, Russia, in their preparations for the ultimate knockout 16 round against the Spaniards.
As for Nigeria, a good friend of mine sums it up so neatly that I cannot but quote him in full. “What's up with Nigeria's Super Eagles?” He asks longer before Nigeria’s opening game. Definitely, he argues, Nigeria might have been affected by what he calls Wakanda Syndrome to remind us of Black Panther’s euphoria and its unabashed cultural commodification. After all, “After winning the swag contest for "best kits," they're now nailing it with their "most stunning outfits off the pitch." Unfortunately, his cri de Coeur only felt into deaf hears, for none could tell Nigeria that “the stakes are much higher than impressive dress code, and that Africa is this time desperate for a semi-final spot.” Outfits and stunning World Cup jersey, Nigeria has shown the world; but paly, they chose not to. After their chaotic performance against Croatia, they abated they the general outrage in defeating Iceland. Now, with three points pocketed, the task was clear: beat or tie up with Argentina in their last group-stage game. Apparently, the squad did not share this sense of mission. Instead, they played, to say the least, with no sense of purpose. Indeed, after winning the best kits and outfitting contests, they no longer had any business to do in the tournament and peacefully and complacently chose to go home. A disaster!
Senegal, the continent’s last hope? They are all même pipe, même tabac! Self-deceived must have been anyone who expected otherwise. For a team like that of Senegal, any early exit must be painful enough. But to be out of this FWC in the way they did, is just unspeakably horrible. For the sake of objectivity, it’s often said that an observer must detach him/herself from personal emotions. But, for any concerned analysist and observer, however little, who has seen Senegal exiting the way they did, must have found this golden rule impossible to follow.
Ah, the tournament started just a week ago, but it’s already over for the five African teams. And always, some people would keep telling us to hope for the best next time the FWC comes around (in 2022!). I say, as long the African teams continue to play spinelessly, as long they fail to understand that marketing is not footballing and that footballing is, in fact, marketing PLUS, and thus the former must be the priority over the latter, there will not be any “best” to hope for. Rather than blame referees for mistakes that never made, it’s high time to admit the truth, the truth that, in order to do better, African teams need a better sense of mission, of purpose, and determination. Until then, any hope for better results would be an allusion, a purely dangerous self-deceit.