African soccer has taken some big strides in the past few years, with teams such as Senegal and Ghana making noise in several of the major international tournaments.
Senegal beat France at the 2002 World Cup and went as far as the quarter finals, whereas Ghana defeated both the United States and the Czech Republic on their route to the elimination round of the 2006 World Cup.
It’s no secret, however, that Africa still has a long way to go when it comes to soccer, or football, as they call it.
One of the main reasons for this is the lack of money available to the various football federations. Not all African football federations have limited funds, however. Countries such as Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt are almost as well off as some European countries.
South Africa's economy and reputation will be boosted enormously when they play host for the 2010 World Cup. South Africa has also been the setting of numerous pre-season programs for Manchester United, consequently enhancing their financial condition.
Unfortunately, not all African countries are so well off financially.
In a recent World Cup qualifier, Tanzania lost 2-1 to Cameroon in a hard-fought encounter. Samuel Eto’o and the rest of his team, nicknamed the Indomitable Lions, were kept at bay for most of the game, but were eventually able to break through a stubborn and determined Tanzanian defense led by the efforts of defender Nadir Haroub.
Eto’o was so impressed with Haroub’s performance, that the Barcelona star was keen on swapping jerseys with the Tanzanian centre-back at the end of the match.
It’s usually custom for players to exchange jerseys after each match and it only seemed standard for Haroub to accept Eto’o’s jersey and give away his own in the process. After all, most Africans, whether poverty-stricken children, football fanatics, or even professional soccer players admire the two-time African Player of the Year.
The Tanzanian Football Federation was clearly not pleased with Haroub’s gesture, however, and even threatened to fine Haroub in order to cover the cost of replacing his jersey.
Most professional soccer teams, whether club or international, receive a new kit for every game, but the Tanzanian football federation is so poor they cannot even afford to provide their players with new jerseys for each match.
The Tanzanian team’s management claimed players were not permitted to give away jerseys because the federation is unable to meet the price demands of paying for a new jersey after every match.
The incident sparked widespread criticism from the Tanzanian media and public, causing the Tanzanian Football Federation to rescind Nadir Haroub’s punishment.
“It’s obvious he couldn’t say no to Eto’o,” TFF president Leodegar Tenga said.
“It was a wise decision to give his jersey to such a famous player. This will make our country known.”
A fund raising drive was put in motion soon after the match by numerous fans to help Haroub meet the cost of replacing his jersey.
Can you imagine this ever happening in your country?
Unless you’re from Tanzania or another country in Africa, then I highly doubt your international soccer team would ever experience a scenario like this. Soccer players in most countries almost always give away their jersey, whether it’s to one of their opponents or to one of the fans.
This is just one example of why soccer in Africa, despite it being the most popular sport in the entire continent, has a long way to go until it can be on the same level as Europe, Asia, and South and North America.