After much disappointment in Africa’s participation at the World Cup in South Africa, it became clear to me why African players are worshipped at international club levels around the world, but always fail to deliver for their country even at the African Nations Cup. Many have even called star-filled teams of Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire under-achievers even in African football, despite the fact that many of their players are the main pillars of some of the most successful clubs in world football. Many Africans like to celebrate the likes of Cameroonian Eto of Inter Milan, Ivorian Drogba and Kalou of Chelsea, Nigerian Mikel of Chelsea, and Ivorian Yaya Toure of Barcelona at club level, but are always ashamed of them whenever they put on their national colors. This is because they always fail to deliver the success in the same manner that they do for their respective clubs.
Many have argued that the reason why African football stars almost never deliver for their country like they do for their clubs is because of bad preparations for tournaments, some say it is because of incompetent football administration, others say it is because of appointing and changing of coaches in the last minutes, and many just dismiss the issue as a fact that Blacks can not accomplish much when they come together. After watching this World Cup games so far, and comparing the African teams to those teams that are in the semi-finals, I have come up with one single reason why our football is so shallow at national levels, despite bad national leadership, incompetent football administration, and inadequate preparations, it is lack of proper education.
A good comparison between Nigeria and the likes of Germany, Netherlands, and Spain shows that Nigeria’s problem on the field was illiteracy or lack of educational values. Education is not meant to just give you a degree, a job, or an income, but rather, to give you the skills to solve problems and to survive to the very end. This is what the African players lacked in abundance on the field. A good and proper education does not only teach from a very young age the value of teamwork over seniority, responsibility over titles, wisdom over strength, vision over power, but most importantly teaches you the purpose of mass, time, distance, space, and direction. The lack of these is what destroyed Nigeria against the little South Korean and Greek teams at the World Cup.
Mass does not only represent the weight of any problem an individual or nation may have to contend with, but it is also the weight of the soccer ball. The time is not just the moment to bring positive change and enforce positive rules to enhance the change, but it is also the exact moment of delivering the ball to the best teammate to execute for the team. The distance is not just how far our goals are and what we must do to accomplish them, but it is also the exact location to place the ball in such as way the teammate will not have to think much when the ball arrives. Space is not just the vision to see things as they should be, but also the belief that the ball will be delivered as planned. The direction is not just the path we must follow to achieve our goals, but also the exact path the ball must follow to reach the teammate at the right time and location in space regardless of how many opponents are in the way.
The African teams at the World Cup had the strength, speed, zeal, and plan to overpower their opponents around the field, but they failed to score their goals or create any meaningful attacking strategy because they were mentally and educationally deficient in the areas of mass, time, distance, space, and direction. When it mattered most, the African players could not think and make decisions like they make for their glorious European clubs. This is because in Europe, they are surrounded with educated, intelligent, and technically savvy players who get them the ball in such a way that they do not have to think much but focus on the ball and goal. At the World Cup, the African team usually passed the ball too long, too short, too late, or went against appropriate direction, distance, and time when they got close to the opponent’s goal.
Many were not smart enough when it mattered most to know the exact amount of force to apply to the mass of the ball to travel through a specific direction and travel the exact distance through 3 defenders and arrive at the exact location for the teammate to get it at the exact time in space to execute. Instead, the ball was too long, too short, too late, or they simply withdrew and took a less effective and efficient direction. South Korea did not have the speed and strength, but they tied Nigeria in the game intellectually. They used mass, time, distance, space, and direction against the older and less intellectual Nigerians and we got tired. So, the Africans could not make a comeback or fight to the end.
Nigeria and Africans must enforce laws that every child on our soil must have a college education. This is to ensure that no matter what our citizens do in life and where they find themselves, they will be able to always use the knowledge of mass, time, distance, space, and direction to choose better leaders, solve personal and national problems, put teamwork before traditions and tribalism, have vision to plan and execute, and be successful at the table of nations.