Now that we’re down to the quarter finals it’s perhaps worth noting the Ladbrokes odds: Brazil 9-4, Spain 3-1, Argentina 7-2, Germany 6-1, Holland 7-1, Uruguay 14-1, Ghana 33-1 and Paraguay 40-1. The long odds on Ghana are not something to mention here in South Africa where the fact that this was supposed to be Africa’s World Cup is still a sore point. Marcel Desailly, one of the French cup-winning team of 1998, says that the reason African teams haven’t done better is that it’s still too early for Africa. ‘Local players in the African leagues, no matter where, battle to cope with the level at a global tournament, the pressure exerted at this level and the intensity of the game,’ he says. Dismissing this, the Times columnist S’Thembiso Msomi angrily writes that South Africa, with by far the most resources and best technology, should easily have had the continent’s top football team following the advent of democracy in 1994 but that the early promise of 1996 (winning the African Cup of Nations) has been squandered by endless factionalism within South Africa’s FA. Much the same, he argues, has happened to South African’s political leadership in Africa, for much the same reasons
To South Africans, mention of continental leadership harks back to the era of Thabo Mbeki, who always seemed far more interested in vainglorious dreams of that kind than in actually running the country. When he sought to extend his presidency beyond the constitutionally allotted two terms he was summarily evicted from power and his demise is regretted by no one. But of course it was on his watch that the World Cup was procured for South Africa and wanting to preside over the event may have been one reason for Mbeki’s ill-fated attempt to extend his rule. Since his eviction Mbeki has lived in quiet retirement and said almost nothing about anything in public.
He broke his silence yesterday, however, to announce:
The Black Stars will remain true to the role that Ghana has played as an eminent leader of the peoples of Africa and the African diaspora… I am certain that these millions will now rally behind the Black Stars to guarantee that we cap the fact of the very successful hosting of the World Cup by Africa by ensuring that on behalf of the continent and the diaspora, the Black Stars, now of Africa, win the World Cup.
As you can see, Mbeki’s old-style Marxist pan-Africanism is still very much the keynote. Ghana are the key team because of Nkrumah’s tradition and the rallying behind them of the masses will ‘guarantee’ their victory. Hurry now to place your bets before the odds shorten.