Can Africa’s World Cup qualifiers respond and take their game to a higher level. There were precious few clues in Angola to suggest they could. One would tend not to identify Pussy Cats, Super Turkeys and Tuskless Elephants as World Cup winning species, but if Cameroon, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire apply themselves like Black Stars they could move beyond the shadow of the Pharoahs and rediscover their fierceness.
The Black Stars were not predicted to shine in Angola. A significant number of their established names were injured or sulking. But with Milovan Rajevec, an old Yugoslav in command of the x’s and o’s, and a squad of U20 World Cup winners to choose from, folks should not have been so surprised. There has been plenty of talk of those who filled the boots of Appiah, Essien, Mensah and Muntari. Agyemang-Badu, Asamoah, Ayew and Inkoom are now household names, the equal of any Pharoah or sulking star. Ghana’s graduates will give pause to Australia, Germany and Serbia, who should note the Pharoahs may not have been so pleased with themselves if Rajevec had also introduced goalkeeper Daniel Adjei and centre forward Dominic Adiyah. Ghana were just an Adjei fingertip and an Adiyah toe poke away from closing down the party at Club Pharoah.
So how will Les Éléphants, Les Lions Indomptables and Super Eagles respond to their inglorious exits from Angola? Will they promote from their junior ranks? Will they advertise for an old partizan with a chalkboard? They could do all of the above, but nothing will change for them if the likes of Drogba, Eto’s and Yakubu don’t believe.
The German shoe and sportswear company, Puma, sponsors at least 12 African national football teams–five of which qualified for the 2010 World Cup. To commemorate the World Cup year (and because it is good PR and to sell shirts), Puma commissioned artist Kehinde Wiley to create four new works of arts inspired by the footbal stars Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon, John Mensah of Ghana and Emmanuel Eboué of Ivory Coast. Wiley painted individual portraits of the players and a fourth painting (above) of the three players “symbolizing the united countries of Africa.” The players are wearing the “Unity” kit, a limited edition uniform designed to be a third kit (apart from home and away kits) shared by all African teams, symbolizing unity.
Here‘s a link to a video of Wiley at work on the project with Mensah, Eboue and Eto’o.
The paintings will be exhibited during the World Cup in South Africa.
History was made in Cairo tonight. Ghana won the U20 after an exciting penalty shoot out against Brazil. I was privileged to witness the first African team to win the U20 World Cup. Match report and analysis to follow.