Columnists 6.6.2018 12:14 pm

Siding with African teams not obligatory

Jaco van der Merwe.

Jaco van der Merwe.

What complete and utter nonsense, this sudden continental brotherhood thing.

With the Russian edition of the World Cup hardly a week away, it has begun.

In the usual absence of Bafana Bafana the familiar old rallying call that all Saffers must support their fellow African countries is already in full cry.

What complete and utter nonsense, this sudden continental brotherhood thing.

I’ve always understood that the rest of Africa hate us because we think we’re better than them and that we hate them because we’re better than them.

But, turning a blind eye to our football failures every four years, we must look for solace in other African teams who did qualify.

It drives me crazy.

Let’s assume for a minute Bafana did get on the plane to Russia and let’s say they somehow qualify for the last 16 and Nigeria get knocked out, I can’t imagine millions of Nigerians flocking to fan parks in Lagos wearing Bafana jerseys to show their support for a fellow African country.

That will never ever happen.

Like all passionate sporting nations, they will stand behind their team and will either celebrate them for having a good campaign or slate them for being disappointing.

When Italy failed to qualify for 2018, the nation went into mourning, followed by serious introspection and action plans to avoid similar embarrassment in future.

They didn’t shrug their shoulders and say, tough luck, let us get behind Spain because they are our fellow European nation.

Not in a million years.

When Germany thrashed Brazil 7-1 in their own backyard four years ago, their fanatic fans did not give a flying toss over the fact that next-door neighbours Argentina reached the final.

In fact, it must have been a bitter pill to swallow for them that their archrivals stole their thunder.

Now we are urged to support Senegal, Nigeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt. Why? Sharing a big piece of land mass isn’t enough to convince me.

Those northern African countries might be technically on our continent, but the differences between us and them – culture, religion and society – make us worlds apart.

Their make-up is actually a lot closer to the Middle East than to Africa.

I remember a very interesting debate on BBC radio ahead of the 2010 World Cup that tried to determine if the tournament taking place in South Africa would give other African participants any sort of home-ground advantage.

And the general feeling among the panellists who consisted of big name former African players was no.

Why?

For the simple reason that your average Joe who bought a ticket to watch Algeria take on England in a group match in Cape Town could probably name the entire England squad because they all ply their trade in the Premier League he follows on a regular basis.

As for the Algerians, they might have had a fringe player or two in a big league, but most of them featured in lower European leagues or their own local league, which does not enjoy any exposure at the southern tip of Africa.

Until Bafana can qualify again, I’ll be shamelessly wearing my German shirt while having a little flutter on France and Argentina.

Besides, my picks are bound to outstay any African side in Russia anyway.

 

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