How Africa Developed Europe

By | May 23rd, 2014 | No Comments

Odwa, South Africa. Photo by Jessica Hilltout. http://www.jessicahilltout.com/collections/footie-fever/115.html

Odwa, South Africa. Photo by Jessica Hilltout. http://www.jessicahilltout.com/collections/footie-fever/115.html

African national teams in the 2014 World Cup will rely overwhelmingly on Europe-based players. Here are the exact numbers according to the preliminary lists recently released by FIFA:

Cameroon: 26 out of 28

Ivory Coast: 26 out of 28

Nigeria: 25 out of 30

Ghana: 25 out of 26

Algeria: 25 out of 30

The data reveal that nearly nine out of ten Africans likely to be in Brazil next month play for European clubs. 127 out of 142 players, or 89.4 percent, to be exact. Just over half (52.1 percent) of these players come from Big 5 leagues (England, Spain, Italy, Germany, Spain).

Four years ago, the percentage of Europe-based players in the final 23-man squads of the six African nations was around 80 percent (click here for data). This lower figure stemmed largely from South Africa’s use of players from its domestic Premier Soccer League, ranked among the Top 10 richest leagues in the world.

The 2014 numbers also reveal that nine of the fifteen Africa-based players on the preliminary lists are goalkeepers. In other words, a minuscule 0.42 percent of “outfield” players are on the books of African clubs.

The export of talent from Africa to Europe, as the academic research demonstrates, has produced winners and losers. In strictly economic terms, benefits accrue to individual players who make it into European football, as well as to African coaches, scouts, and other local stakeholders in this global commodity chain. But in the end the lion’s share of the financial rewards in this relationship go to European clubs and leagues, usually at the expense of the sustainability and quality of domestic leagues and clubs in Africa.
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Addendum (4pm ET, May 23, 2014)

In response to @TonyKaron’s comment on Facebook about the similarities of Africa with Latin America, here are the numbers for foreign-based players on South American team lists:

Brazil: 19/23 (18 Europe, 1 Canada)
Chile: 19/26 (15 in Europe, 3 Brazil, 1 Mexico)
Colombia: 24/27 (18 Europe, 2 Mexico, 3 Argentina, 1 Brazil)
Uruguay: 24/25 (16 Europe, 1 Japan, 4 Brazil, 1 Argentina, 1 Paraguay, 1 Mexico)
Ecuador: 17/30 (5 Europe, 7 Mexico, 1 Colombia, 1 Brazil, 1 USA, 1 Saudi Arabia, 1 UAE)
Argentina: 22/26 (20 Europe, 1 Brazil, 1 Mexico)

Total: 125/157 (79.6 percent)

I also ran the Asia numbers:

Australia: 22/30 (17 Europe, 1 USA, 1 Japan, 1 S. Korea, 1 China, 1 Qatar)
Japan: 12/23 (all in Europe)
Iran: 10/30 (7 Europe, 1 Qatar, 1 Canada, 1 Kuwait)
South Korea: 17/23 (9 Europe, 4 Japan, 3 China, 1 Saudi Arabia)

Total: 61/106 (57.5 percent)

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