Robson Sharuko in Cairo, Egypt
ACTING Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kazembe Kazembe was one of the 16 African ministers that attended a high-profile indaba here on Sunday to discuss, among other things, the future of sport on the continent.
The ministers explored various ways that should be deployed for African football to be counted on the big stages, like the Fifa World Cup.
African nations have stagnated in recent years at the World Cup after the promise first shown by the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, who reached the quarter-finals of the tournament at Italia ’90.
Four years later, in the United States, a talented generation of the Super Eagles came within minutes of knocking out eventual finalists Italy, but a late equaliser by Roberto Baggio gave the Azzurri a lifeline and the midfielder then scored the winner in extra-time.
The Teranga Lions of Senegal then beat defending champions France 1-0 in the first game of the 2002 World Cup in a tourney where the West Africans went all the way to the quarter-finals only to lose to Turkey via a golden goal.
In the first Fifa World Cup on African soil in 2010, the Black Stars of Ghana also came within a last-gasp penalty conversion, against Uruguay, to become the first team from the continent to reach the semi-finals of the global football festival.
The Black Stars missed that spot-kick and Uruguay went on the win the penalty shootout.
However, at the last World Cup in Russia, all the African representatives were knocked out in the group stages.
On Sunday, the African ministers, who are here for the Afcon finals, convened a meeting to discuss the state of the game and what could be done to improve performances on the global stage.
“There are 16 ministers discussing the future of sport in Africa, what strategies we should deploy so that Africa can be counted at the world stage,” Kazembe told our Harare Bureau.
“There is concern that Africa isn’t doing much as a united continent to bring world trophies home. France won the World Cup, but it was African talent in French colours that won the trophy.”
Lack of funding has been a huge handicap for the African countries and only on Sunday, the Super Falcons of Nigeria staged a sit-in at their French hotel demanding to be paid their outstanding dues by the Nigerian Football Federation.
Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions, who are the Afcon holders, have also been hit by chaos in their camp ahead of their adventure here with players demanding their dues.