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The remnants of African blushes in Russia World Cup

Jushna Shahin

World’s best players said painful adieu from the World Cup before the pre-quarter finals after the shock exit of heavyweights including Germany, Argentina, Portugal and Spain. Round of 16 match between Brazil and Mexico was exciting but the five times champions proved too good for their Copa America rivals. Belgium’s last minute winner against Japan was a heart breaker for the Asians. The round-16 games, with all the twists and turns, seemed more like finals, with el classico qualities. Remarkably, for the first time since 1982 the World Cup witnessed the early exit of all African countries in the group stage itself.  Even Mohamed Salah, the world’s favourite player who returned from a shoulder injury could not help Egypt which played their third World Cup after an interval of 28 long years. But, with nations playing with their African root players, one can with ease note that the African life isn’t completely immortal in this World Cup. When Belgium holds Lukaku in their team, the French National team, with 15 Africans, out of their 23 squad, would be the one, now the whole ‘dark continent’ would be praying for.

 

Quarter finals ahead, the first match when Les Bleus play against Uruguay, the line-up won’t be devoid of players with African roots, who make their heart and bones, from Kylian Mbappe, the 19-year old, who created a sensational record after Pele to be the youngest player to hit more than two goals in a World Cup in forward to Samuel Umtiti, the Barcelona strong man in defense. And it is clear, Mbappe is up for more in coming matches. And African hopes are rested on these players looking forward to prove wrong the stereotypes of their tactical failure and generalised athletism defined by physicality, pace and strength.

Since the beginning of 19th Century, millions of African immigrants have found shelter in France a major country that colonized them and looted. In search of a better life, better job and education, when Africans crossed the Mediterranean to Europe and France, they were treated with much difference, with class and discrimination. But, for the much better living condition, escaping (or over)the war and corruption in their homeland, they embraced the discriminating French soil. And, thus does the African rooted immigrant players, stay in France.

With twinkling eyes out of blooming hope, when these players kick ball for the French nation, deep under they feel the pain that Africa went though. But, the least they could do, is to play well breaking the stereotypes, holding up their ‘black’ identity. And it is this courage that keeps them going, even when the bitterest racist and stereotypic comments are thrown at them. And they prove, apart from their tremendous physical strength that the world focuses on, they possess way too impressing mental strength too.

When Africa fail to nurture their young football dreams due to malnutrition and less infrastructure, these African rooted players chose to play for other countries, just to keep their continent alive, with around 83% of its population cheering for football. One major reason for the bitter reality that Africa fail to excel in international football is due to their lack of professionalism. Devoid of better fields and under-rated pitches, exceptional players like Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, could gain an International fame, growing up in Africa. And Africa, unable to train their youthful dreams, weep the saddest exit in 2018 World Cup, as Japan was chose over Senegal for the round 16, by fair play rule. And the saddest part being this exit is the first and foremost in World cup history, enough to cement the stereotypes against Africans.

African players except a very few, all round the globe represent the racist ‘black’ comments and on top of that notion they are the prototype footballers with great power and physique, fail to demonstrate, the talent that they have.

Senegal, in 2002, that managed to reach the quarter finals with their ultra-high talented Adiou Cisse, was the first ever African country to reach the quarter finals in the World cup history. And now, that young talent grew into a perfect coach, and was the only ‘black’ coach in the 32 set of World Cup teams. Introspecting their errors, and nurturing new hopes, Cisse was optimistic about their 2018 World Cup journey, and they progressed better than the other four African countries even with minimal number of fans affording to reach Russia to cheer for them. But, when the fair play rule overruled their efforts, they were the last African country that failed to go any further from the group matches. And this ‘fair play’ result, hardened their stereotype on playing with physicality. The cliche notion that people shout while watching a match against Africans that, they overpowered the game with power if Africans won the match and, no matter how tough and strong they are, they need to play with brains, if Africans, lost the game. And the racist ‘black’ remarks. But, with Mo Salah in Liverpool, Kylian Mbappe in France, and Lukaku in Belgium, as strikers, are the blue prints of African soccer talent.

When Europe dominates the football world, Africa is a continent with high football enthusiasts. When this trans-national game crossed borders to reach underdeveloped, malnutrition hit Africa, football became their nourishment. Most of the Africans play football to make a livelihood. And thus, more than a national sentiment, football for them is an escape from the scorching harsh hunger. And the world peeps too much into them for their physicality and fitness that they possess, oblivion to the fact that they moulded their physique from an underdeveloped nation!

Africa keep their dreams alive through African players all round the world. Even when they don’t have any of their nation left in round 16 to quarter finals to vie for the World Cup, they have their hearts beating for the African players playing in different nations. And the hardships of difference and discrimination that many predecessors suffered, and fought against, made the way much easier for Mbappe, Pogba, Umtiti and others. And big names such as Zidane, Benzema, Evra, or Nasri cannot be forgotten when France upraise for another World Cup.

 

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