Africa has no more excuses to offer in soccer or other fields

THE performance of African teams in the world soccer tournament remains to be reckoned with by the continent that hosted it.

THE performance of African teams in the world soccer tournament remains to be reckoned with by the continent that hosted it.

Though blacks have broken into this game still dominated by Europeans and their descendants, Africa has no more excuses to offer in a simple game to play and organise.

Nigerian journalist Azubuike Ishiekwene ascribed the failure of the Super Eagles to political interference and the underlying rot in that country.

The charge applies to many other fields - notwithstanding talent and genius - and is relevant to this country.

Africa has not recently emerged on the world soccer scene and it is not because of "previous disadvantages", the usual claptrap to justify mediocrity and desires.

Blacks in South Africa had started playing soccer even before many European and South American countries.

As early as the last decade of the nineteenth century the first black soccer league was organised in which a bull was the trophy.

Without state or white assistance or "development" programmes, blacks lhave long formed teams - Orlando Pirates, Moroka Swallows - even Mamelodi Sundowns is a continuation of Pretoria Callies - are older than 70 years. Several well-organised school, local and national leagues have existed.

Outstanding team captains and administrators have graced the soccer field. Individuals such as Kaizer Motaung and Jomo Sono have made soccer big business.

Steve "Kalamazoo" Mokone went abroad as a soccer player and became a university professor.

Blacks now dominate soccer, having eclipsed whites and without quotas.

There is no other activity as well organised, well established and enthused about as soccer, from toddlers across black men who passionately follow soccer to women who dominate soccer supporters' clubs; it is in the blood.

There is even a special South African invention associated with the game: the vuvuzela.

Given this legacy, the standard of soccer should have been much higher in the world tournament.

The failure of Bafana Bafana to make it much higher - and even to be out-shone by the Black Eagles from a country that is least resourced with fields and finance, a relative new comer to organised soccer and truly disadvantaged - is cause for concern but not puzzling.

There are pandemics of mediocre performance in education, enterprise, government and cultural life.

Since 1994, for example, a black generation has, as never before, been given abundant opportunities and resources in education, yet performance - as measured by marks and the quality of individuals passing through the system - has never been so low. Even the education department has acknowledged this by lowering marks to accommodate the deterioration.

There has been a failure to capitalise on advantages because of a "previous disadvantages" syndrome and not living up to the past legacies that showed blacks at their best.

This stems from the inability to face challenges and coming up with original, creative and demanding systems and solutions.

It shows the workings of the old adage that "attitude determines altitude".

Winning nations emphasise substantive foundations and frameworks, not just material and technical means.

The present dispensation undermines discipline and determination and has played a major role in making blacks a failing people, irrespective of the opportunities and resources.

It is what is inside a people that provide the ultimate bottom line in success.