Football is just a game and NOT politics

Italy and France were finalist at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, but last year it was a different story for the football giants. They were eliminated in the first round in South Africa. This had never happened in World Cup history before.‘La Vergogna’ (The Disgrace) were the headlines in one of the Italian papers and another one Saranno pomodori (don’t actually know the meaning but it has something to do with tomatoes, I’ll find out from my Ghanaian-Italian friend Patrick Tito)

At the 1966 World Cup in England, Italy needed a draw against North Korea to advance to the quarter finals. But things turned from bad to worse when Pak-Doo-Ik beat Albertosi to eliminate the Azzurri. The nightmare did not end there for the Italian players. On their return to Italy, they had to change their flight route when they got to know that angry fans were waiting for them at the airport.They eventually landed at Genoa and they were booed by their own people. Rotten tomatoes were thrown at Fachetti, Rivera, Mazzola and other internationals.

In 1990,the then Argentine coach Carlos Bilardo told his players that it would be better for the plane to crash than to return home if they could not go past the first round in Italy.

President of the Italian Soccer Federation (FIGC) Giancarlo Abete made an inquiry into Azzurri’s World Cup failure and the structural crisis of Italy’s football. It did not end there. Just last week, former Lazio soccer team captain Giuseppe Signori was among 16 people arrested last week for alleged involvement in a match-fixing and betting ring throughout Italy. There are “big problems” for Serie A.

L’Equipe labelled the French team ‘Les Imposteurs’ (traitors) after their poor showing against Mexico in South Africa.In France, former Minister of Health, Youth affairs and Sports, Roselyne Bachelot (now Minister for Solidarity and Social cohesion) called for the resignation of the French FA President. All the 23 players were interrogated.

Une affaire d’etat, football is a state issue (politics) in France and maybe in many countries in the world, especially in Africa. Almost every France minister had something to say about Les Bleus poor performance. La Fin de Les Bleus (France’s end) was already written in the stars. The team qualified for the World Cup courtesy of  a Thierry Henry ‘hand of God’ goal against Ireland. I was very disappointed after watching the game. The French never deserved to be in South Africa and the Irish were glad the law of Karma worked on the ‘Cocks’.

Last year in April, the French team was involved in a sex scandal.Zahia,a 17 year old prostitute was hired to help players like Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema and Sidney Govou ‘score goals’ before international games.I don’t know if she was part of the team that went to South Africa.

The French press blamed the cause of France’s poor showing on the different cultural backgrounds in the team, Black-beurre-blanc. According to them, Nicolas Sarkozy was the root of all these problems. They claimed he had poisoned the whole nation with his views on individualism, where everyone thinks about himself to the detriment of others.The 2010 team was a shadow of the 1998 ‘coloured team’ that won the World Cup, the supposed model of integration.This is a reflection of a land with its clans, and also its ethnic division.France has always had a multicultural team with players like Raymond Kopa (Poland) in the 60’s, Michel Platini (Italy) and Jean Tigana (Mali) in the 80’s.

French football remains in the grip of the scandal that erupted in April this year when the content of a meeting between federation heads and senior coaches, including the national team manager, Laurent Blanc, was leaked. On the agenda was the sensitive issue of dual-nationality players, who were developed at French academies and even played for the country at youth levels only to declare for their nations of origin. Bassong, a product of Clairefontaine, the renowned centre of excellence, and a former France under-21 player, was named specifically.

When the transcript of the conversation became public, it caused outrage, not least because a “solution”, voiced by the France Football Federation’s technical director, François Blaquart, had involved limiting the number of non-white 12 and 13-year-olds who entered French training centres and academies. It was alleged that the quota of black and Arab youngsters ought not to exceed 30%. Blaquart has been suspended from his post.

The issue has transcended football and has dominated television news and discussion programmes. The presidential election will be held next year and immigration is a hot topic.France has, at its heart, a problem where it has been unable or unwilling to accommodate the sons and daughters of its former colonies, even though France benefited and enriched itself greatly from the relationship.

Does a team’s performance determine a nation’s economic situation?
Italy’s abysmal performance at the World Cup occurred at a time when the country was in economic crisis. The Azzurri showed the weakness of the whole nation.They looked like a team without a history, identity and a dream.

In Ghana,there is the perception that every Accra Hearts of Oak fan is a member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) while Kumasi Asante Kotoko fans belong to the New Patriotic Party (NPP).I totally disagree!

No matter how important football is to us, it is just a game and not politics.

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