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Continental problem? Toronto columnist condemns CAF World Cup efforts

Jun 20, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT

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Kurtis Larson isn’t being shy about a controversial topic, burying an entire continent worth of soccer in his new Toronto Sun column.

Claiming that the Confederation of African Football’s representatives performance early in this World Cup is endemic, Larson goes after them from Word One.

The claims begin with Yaya Toure’s infamous birthday acknowledgement problems at Manchester City, move on to Cameroon’s brief bonus-fueled boycott and slide into Alex Song’s red-card rage. In short, Larson says these awful examples show how an underperforming continent continues to disappoint.

From The Sun:

Similarly, neighboring Nigeria was embroiled in an alleged match-fixing scam during an important pre-World Cup tuneup against Scotland, a game investigators red-flagged as one organized crime might have infiltrated.

Those accusations kicked up a notch when Austin Ejide appeared to throw the ball into his own goal midway through the first half that game.

This is a federation full of cry babies, selfishness and alleged cheats.

Strong words, but certainly ones that needed to be uttered now in order to remain safe. Cameroon has been eliminated but Ivory Coast is in still in strong position to advance (having only lost to a Colombia team that looks ready to roar). Nigeria’s sickly performance against Iran may lead to elimination but they could still up-end Bosnia and Herzegovina, while Ghana’s game effort against the U.S. belies consecutive knockout round performances. And Algeria was never expected to do much.

Not saying the corruption talk is silly; it isn’t. And the cited examples are certainly very poor representations of a continent that hasn’t always covered itself in glory… but which continent has? France simply quit in the 2010 tournament, Croatia has had a player suspended from the tournament for inciting Pro-Nazi chants, and England had its high-profile captain sleep a teammate’s wife. The anti-Europe column hasn’t appeared as Spain and England crash out, though.

CAF has put a team in the knockout rounds of each of the last six World Cups, and in the quarterfinals of 3 of 6 (Ghana in 2010, Senegal in 2002, Cameroon in 1990). And while this isn’t the most shining of accomplishments, it’s also far from consistent and horrific failure. And as explored in Ian Hawkey’s “Feet of the Chameleon”, African soccer has met plenty of unique obstacles in its development.

I don’t know Larson personally, and I’ve enjoyed following him on Twitter, so I can’t and won’t accuse him of click fodder. But this seems like a reach to me. Yes, CAF is crooked, like the majority of confederations. To pick out one seems a little forced.

  1. dohpey28 - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:25 AM

    I think putting someone sleeping with a teammate’s wife on the level of pro-nazi chants and match fixing is a little bit of a stretch, don’t you?

    • Nicholas Mendola - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:31 AM

      No, I don’t.

    • lyleoross - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:22 AM

      Does it matter? Indeed, I’d say your point is a distraction from the point the writer is making. That European players and systems are as capable of doing stupid things as African players and systems, but no one is chomping at the bit to write about their behavior. Rather than an either or, it’s a dumb and dumber, dumb for sleeping with your mate’s wife, dumber for chanting pro-nazi slogans.

      In Europe, and frankly, the Americas too, racism is alive and well. We view other cultures, especially African ones, through a very negative lens while viewing White cultures through a very positive lens. We do the same thing with religion, viewing non-Christian religions through a very negative lens, and Christian ones through a very forgiving lens. What makes this so sad is that if someone views us in a similar fashion, we get very belligerent. “How dare you judge us so unfairly!”

      • narfmoo12 - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:28 AM

        No. We view underachievers very harshly, regardless of skin color. Spain has been ripped apart in the last few days. It happens in every sport. When the Penguins get bounced from the playoffs, everyone rips on Crosby/Malkin for not showing up, and there are countless more examples.

        But thank you for playing the race card in an attempt to justify how awful the African countries have played over the last two decades in comparison to the amount of talent they send to the top European leagues.

      • Nicholas Mendola - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:53 AM

        Aside from the Ivory Coast, the teams don’t send as many top players as you think. Additionally, CAF’s backwards qualification process (playoffs after round-robin) doesn’t automatically put the best teams in.

      • lyleoross - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:55 AM

        I’m gonna have to disagree with you on many levels. You are comparing apples to oranges. Tearing up the Penguins and their players isn’t the same as condemning the whole American continent for the play because of that team and those individual players, the America’s performance, nor Asian performance has been any better. The focus is on the Penguins, and what they and those individual players did. In that context your statement is right on. But what happened here is that the entirety of CAF was condemned, period. Not a team, or even a couple of teams, or a few players, but all of CAF. The writer of the article then compared behaviors in CAF to those in Europe across the board showing fairly similar behaviors, and asked the question, “why isn’t anyone condemning all or Europe for corruption and malfeasance? On only has to peruse this site to find ample player, club and country misdeeds throughout Europe, CONCACAF and South America.

        I understand that the conservative pundits and news outlets have coined the race card nicely, and they hold up their hands like a red carded player saying “who me,” but as the saying goes, don’t judge a man by his words, judge him by his behavior. All of the race card calls don’t mean a hill of beans when I can sit in the stands and watch fans throwing bananas at DA or hear players calling other players racist names from where I sit in the stands.

        You may recognize that no racism exists in the sport, but when I watch the games on TV and see the “no room for racism” signs on the bill boards and even on uniforms, I tend to think that someone believes there’s a problem.

      • geojock - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:01 PM

        Funny thing is you’re the one currently crying “How dare you judge them so unfairly!”

      • lyleoross - Jun 20, 2014 at 1:05 PM

        Indeed, how dare I! Although, I think I can make a credible argument that the author was doing the same. If you’re standing on the deck of the Titanic, and the water is lapping around your feet, and you’re crying, “it’s not sinking, it’s not sinking!” you sort of lose credibility as an expert on sinking ships.

        Last, “you pulled the race card” is a you’re judging unfairly comment. It says you’ve pulled the race card unfairly, and therefore you’re being unfair. When pointing out that someone has done something, it is always wise to make sure they didn’t have reason to do what they’ve done.

      • lyleoross - Jun 20, 2014 at 1:08 PM

        BTW – I don’t recall saying the judgement was unfair, indeed, it’s a fairly accurate assessment of CAF. What I did note was that no one levels the same allegations at other regions that exhibit the same types of behaviors. But of course, lets give credit where credit is due. It was the author who suggested such, I simply agreed with him in slightly stronger terms. I’m fine with the CAF assessment, I’m just not fine with selective judgements.

  2. psuross - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:00 PM

    1990 was the last time that more than one African nation advanced from group play. Granted, in 3 of the last 4, that 1 team has won a round of 16 game, but its still time to reallocate the World Cup qualifying slots.

    And if its found that there was systemic participation in the buying of votes for 2018 and 2022, the reallocation should be doubly harsh IMO.

  3. mazblast - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:55 PM

    I love how people are trying to excuse the corruption within African football and the results below their allocation of WC spots by saying, “the other teams/federations have issues, too, and there’s corruption in their federations, too.”. That’s the “all the other kids do it, Mom” defense, and Mom didn’t buy it. Neither should we.

    It’s a matter of focus, as in “stick to the subject”. We’re not talking about “racism”, race has nothing to do with it, and stop trying to play that tired card to excuse problems. Deal with the problems of European, North American, South American, and Asian football on their own.

    That there are problems with football as played and run elsewhere does not excuse corruption within and poor play by African football.

  4. chunkala - Jun 20, 2014 at 3:28 PM

    What else can I say but the truth hurts and people don’t like hearing it.

    In regards to Spain and England: Spain accomplished something no one else will probably ever do again, winning 3 MAJOR tournaments in a row. They got old and deciding to play Diego Costa was probably not the best move. As for England. they will never win as long as the human sieve Joe Hart is in goal.

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