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World Cup 2010: Heartbreaker for Ghana and Africa

Q&A: Why African teams struggle at the highest level of soccer.

Soccer World Cup 2010

NAIROBI, Kenya — Africa’s soccer teams have mostly disappointed at the World Cup. Ghana, which on Friday faced Uruguay, lost on penalty kicks.

If the Black Stars had gone through to the semi-finals it would have been the furthest any African team has ever gone in World Cup history. GlobalPost talks to Steve Bloomfield, author of "Africa United: Soccer, Passion, Politics and the First World Cup in Africa" about African soccer.

GP: Why do you think African teams have not done as well as expected at the World Cup?

SB: Cameroon’s performance in 1990 was the breakthrough, reaching the quarter-finals but no one’s pushed on since then. It doesn’t help that three of the six African teams at this World Cup changed their coach in the months before the tournament. The other problem is the best
team in Africa, Egypt, who have won the African Cup of Nations the last three times, didn’t qualify.

Read more GlobalPost World Cup Coverage

GP: Does the generally poor quality of the local game have something to do with it?

SB: Too much football in Africa simply isn’t good enough and that means it doesn’t get the fans and the sponsorship it needs to improve.

As a fan are you going to watch the English Premiership on television or go to your local rundown stadium to watch 22 guys you’ve never heard of play bad football on a worse pitch? Satellite television and the marketing power of European clubs had a devastating effect on the local game because local leagues just can’t compete in quality and that has the potential to damage the next generation of African footballers.

GP: The World Cup has been going since 1930 but this is the first time Africa has hosted the tournament. What took so long?

SB: Egypt was the first African country to enter in 1934. By the 1960s Africa was still ignored. It’s really only in the last 20 years that African soccer has been recognized by the rest of the world as
important. Gradually representation has increased to six teams and with that came the idea that it is time for Africa to host a World Cup.