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International Football

One Continents Hope


By Guest Writer Emeka Ezugwu.

This World Cup promises to be like no other, as for the first time in its 80 year history, the world’s greatest sporting event is staged in Africa. The 19th Fifa World Cup is guaranteed to be a spectacular celebration as over one billion Africans prepare to revel in what promises to be one of Africa’s greatest sporting and cultural achievements.

For South Africa, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon, this week marks the beginning of a tournament unlike any other experienced before. These set of players will not be representing their own countries, but the hopes and dreams of an entire continent.

The World Cup draw has not been favourable to any of the African nations competing and many will be forced to perform without key players with Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba’s participation in serious jeopardy as he struggles to recover from a broken arm and the likes of Nigeria’s John Obi Mikel and Ghana’s Michael Essien already ruled out through injury. However, in great adversity, as seen in previous tournaments over the last two decades, African teams have continued to defy the national heavyweights on the biggest of stages.

The various exploits of African World Cup teams of past remain imbedded in World Cup folk law, from Roger Milla’s iconic goal celebration, to Senegal’s heroic journey to the Quarter final stage that captured the hearts and souls of football fans alike. These obstacles and the many more that will undoubtedly be placed in front of each nation in this month long showcase will only serve to galvanise the Africans and provide the national teams with even more motivation to perform well with the continents expectations weighing heavy on their shoulders.

Pele, arguably the best player of his generation, famously predicted in 1977 that an African team would lift footballs most coveted prize by the end of the 20th century. Although his prediction proved wide off the mark with only the Quarter finals stage representing the furthest any African nation has progressed to date, the decision to even award Africa the right to stage the showpiece is considered a victory in itself. And with more African teams than ever before contesting this year’s tournament on home soil anything is possible, suddenly there is genuine hope that success is achievable.

No more can African teams be looked down upon, with more and more players plying their trade week in week out amongst the best football teams across Europe. It does however, remain to be seen whether any of the African national teams possess a squad complete enough to rival their European, Asian and South American opposition. However, what cannot be called into question is the abundance of talent and potential these collective Africans possess with Ghana’s recent success at the U20 World Cup in Nigeria last year signifying this point. The quality players in each of these African nation’s squads will each try to use this moment as their opportunity to shine with the entire World watching. This in itself brings a renewed sense of unified hope, passion and optimism with the imminent aura of proceedings wetting ones appetite as it promises to be one of the most fiercely contested World Cups in years.

South Africa and the readiness of this African nation to host one of the biggest events in sport has often been called into question time and time again in the long build up to this World Cup. But as the South African football team kick off proceedings at 3pm June 11th 2010 and the shared jubilation, euphoria and continental elation is intertwined with cultural heritage and African pride, the World and the remaining 26 competing nations will truly understand the sheer significance this World Cup has on Africa. What better way to commemorate this significant and joyous occasion than with the first ever African champions being crowned; one can only hope.

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