The history of Africa is a complex one, which sinks into the magma of the past and never fails to free itself completely from it, because the burden of paying is often too great, compared to promises and intentions. Struggles, civil wars, hunger, disease, and misery imprison people more than anything else. Football can sometimes help. At least to scatter the dust of joy among people.
There are some African national football teams that have gone down in history. Tunisia’s champion in 2004. The Cameroonians were able to amaze the world in the 90s. The sad story that involved Zambia, whose tragic circle ended with the victory in the 2012 Africa Cup for the new Chipolopolo’s.
Zaire no longer exists. It was the dictator Mobutu who wanted that name, which remained unchanged from 1971 to 1997. Currently, the country is known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, Zaire football was once important. It was the first team from sub-Saharan Africa to participate in the final phase of the World Cup.
1974 was the Year of Grace.
In October, it was held (at 4 in the morning!), in the capital, Kinshasa, the most memorable match in boxing history: the one between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Seven rounds of torture.
It had been a fantastic sports year, along with a large musical gathering of events never seen before in Zaire. In any case, the team that had arrived in Germany a few months earlier soon returned home, after making history.
However, it was rewarded by a humiliating hail of goals, with 14. Of which, 9 against Yugoslavia was the largest gap in a match in the final phase of the World Cup. Who knows if the story that Mwepu, the defender, kicked the free-kick in reverse in the next match against Brazil is true?
In other words, to defend his life and that of his companions from the angry martial law of the father master of their homeland. Or maybe this is another urban legend, to justify an unfortunate mistake?
Egypt is one of the most populated countries in the Middle East and Africa. Life has always been linked to that of the Nile, the symbol of the ancient past. The Pyramids, the Sphinx, the hieroglyphs, mummies, and sarcophagi tell a story that is the dawn and dusk of civilization itself.
From the Suez Canal to the struggle for independence, wars, and revolutions, the Middle East has seen it all. It is inevitable that Egypt will be nicknamed “the Pharaohs.”
In 1934, it was the first African national to participate in a world championship. In 1957, there was instead the first edition, victorious for them, of the Africa Cup, held in Sudan. It was certainly an experimental formula, with many problems and few participants—only three. Egyptians and Ethiopians competed for the trophy in a match with no precedent (4 to 0 final score).
From that distant day, six other successes, of which three consecutive (1959, 1986 at home, 1998, 2006, 2008, 2010), would have enriched the book of records. Together with 25 participations and 15 placements.
The worldwide impact is different, with only three anonymous appearances in the final phase of the most significant tournaments (1934, 1990, 2010).
If the Eagles fly high, what should the Super Eagles do? Definitely aim for space, an infinite territory of hope and a shower of stars. There are many stars who have worn the Nigeria shirt. Even today, the green and white national team is quite popular.
Nigeria is in fact one of the top African national football teams: it has three victories in the African Cup of Nations (1980, 1994, 2013), including six participations in the World Cup, in which it reached the round of 16 three times. (1994, 1998, 2014).
And then there was that success, guaranteed by a handful of players who still represent the best overall expression of Nigerian football today. At the Atlanta Olympics, they got there with momentum and won the gold medal after defeating Argentina’s team composed of Zanetti, Crespo, Simeone, and Almeyda in the final.
In a tournament in which Brazil fielded Bebeto, Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo, Ronaldo, and Dida, all of very high calibre. What about them? They were the chosen of the West: Kanu, Oliseh, Okocha, Babangida. A clean gold team, for real.
“In Black Africa, there are no borders, not even between life and death.”–Leopold Sedar Senghor
Senghor (1906–2001) was a Senegalese politician and poet. Ideologist of Negritude, a cultural and literal movement that emerged in the twentieth century in the French-speaking colonies. It aimed to free the African and African-American people from the heavy inferiority complex inoculated in their minds without mercy. Even beyond the physical suffering.
Yet even football can sometimes contribute to the awakening of consciousness. As it was for Senegal on May 31, 2002, They faced the masters of Europe and the World, for a few more weeks. But they were, because they were defending champions of the previous World Championship (1998) and the European Championship (2000).
The goal of Pope Bouba Diop’s marked the beginning of the end for the French empire. For the bleus team, that would have been eliminated after only three matches, without scoring a goal, even though they had Djorkaeff, Zidane, Henry, and Trezeguet leading the attack.
While the unknown Fadiga, the two Camaras, Diouf, the rocky midfielder and team top scorer Diop (who died prematurely in 2020 due to the SLA) and all the rest of the Teranga Lions squad played in the Ligue 1. Their journey then went up to the quarter-finals, the best result ever for an African national team, together with Cameroon in 1990 and Ghana in 2010.
The 33rd Africa Cup of Nations ended with the final between Senegal and Egypt. After a 0-0 tie in extra time, Senegal won on penalties, thus winning the highest African competition for national teams for the first time in their history.
Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly, Fodè Ballo-Tourè, Abdou Diallo, Bouna Sarr, Idrissa Gueye, Cheikhou Kouyaté, Nampalys Mendy, Ismaïla Sarr, Keita Baldé and above all, the leader, Sadio Mané, absolute champion of Liverpool, form the backbone of the current selection. This is an excellent basis for nurturing hopes that have been dormant too long.