It’s a time for reflection in Germany and Africa after World Cup exits

The tournament in Russia has delivered more unexpected twists and plenty of heartbreak, writes former South African footballer Matthew Booth

Germany coach Joachim Löw speaks to the press after his team returned home from the World Cup on June 28 2018.
Germany coach Joachim Löw speaks to the press after his team returned home from the World Cup on June 28 2018.
Image: REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

Привет, футбольные фанаты (Hello, football fans)

A week ago, I asked if normality had resumed at the World Cup in Russia. Ha! Fat chance!

The Germans have found out, to their peril, that four years is an incredibly long time in football. It has been four years since Philipp Lahm held the World Cup aloft at Rio’s majestic Maracanã. It has been one year since a second-string German squad cantered to victory and won yet another intercontinental title at the Confederations Cup held at the brand-new Krestovsky Stadium in St Petersburg.

A local coach once remarked: “Football will kill you!” I’ll add that it can be a slow death – or a quick one.

De Mannschaft capitulated over a 10-day period involving three group games. The Germans felt the pain of the defending-champions curse that has plagued European teams since 2002, when defending champions France failed to progress. Italy, crowned in 2006, failed to exit their group here in South Africa, and Spain, who won European titles either side of their victory at Soccer City in 2010, were dismal in Brazil and also failed at the group stage.

Joachim Löw, who had recently extended his contract with the German Football Association to 2022 and whose future is now in doubt, said: “All of German football has lost not just a match, but [also] everything we have built in the last few years.”

Over the coming weeks, expect a German Inquisition similar to the Spanish one four years ago (and in 1478). One thing is for sure, though: Leroy Sané, Mario Götze and André Schürrle will publicly show support for their teammates but privately smile at the catastrophe.

I’m not sure how much Sané would have changed the outcome because he is the type of player who loves running at opponents and getting in behind the defence to cause panic with his pace and energy. But certainly missing were the guile, finesse and patience of Götze and Schürrle in a blunt and sterile attack against three teams who dropped deep for most the game in an attempt to catch the Germans on the counter.

The failure of the five African teams to progress has left me heart-sore, angry and confused.

Each nation has its issues and problems, but bear in mind the “developing” world’s 5:50:500 conundrum: the “5” is the $5-billion per year that NGOs generated for the developing world; the “50” represents the $50-billion in official development aid from developed states; and the “500” is the $500-billion transferred from developing and less developed nations back to the very ones who had dished out the handouts.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Matthew Booth is a former South African football defender
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Matthew Booth is a former South African football defender

A large part of this scenario involves Africa, and the $500-billion transfer includes a loss of cash and minerals; an unequal trade balance; and a brain drain involving our educated people … while our best athletic potential follow suit.

In 2010, a cheeky French journalist asked me how it felt to be the only “white” player in the Bafana squad. I laughed incredulously and asked him if he would dare ask Hugo Lloris the same question, and reminded him of the French team’s demographic.

The sooner African governments and football associations take cognisance of this tragedy, the better.

On a positive note, I must commend the teams who had already been eliminated (or were close) come the last group game but nevertheless showed enormous spirit and pride. Many of the games involving Peru, Morocco, Costa Rica, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Poland delivered surprising twists and proved there is no such thing as a “dead-rubber” at a World Cup when national pride and lucrative contracts are at stake.

Viva l’Afrique!


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