Five African teams have qualified for the World Cup, but when will one win? : NPR

Five African teams have qualified for the World Cup. They have the talent, but when will an African team win gold?


Ari Shapiro, host:
Africa has produced a large number of world class footballers. Five teams from the continent qualified for the World Cup in Qatar this year. But it has been 12 years since the World Cup in South Africa, the first FIFA World Cup on African soil. And with so much homegrown talent, why couldn’t the continent produce a team that could win the Gold Cup? Mpho Lakaji reports from Johannesburg.
(SOUNDBITE OF Vuvuzela Explosion)
MPHO LAKAJE, BYLINE: The famous FNB stadium in the town of Soweto, packed to the rafters – South Africa cheered at the opening match of Africa’s first World Cup in 2010. South Africa staged a world-class tournament.
Danny Jordan: This was against the powerful campaign of African pessimism. Will they be ready? Shall we not take chances?
Lakaje: Danny Jordan is the man who led South Africa’s successful bid for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Jordan: What the World Cup has done has dispelled all notion of African pessimism.
Lakaje: But what he hasn’t been able to do is help produce a winner from the African continent. Danny Jordan says the continent’s lack of infrastructure is among the many factors holding back the development of football.
Jordan: We don’t even have a world class stadium on the continent as 22 out of 54 countries can’t play home internationals at home.
(Sound of kicking a soccer ball)
Lakaji: Africa has no shortage of talent – Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Didier Drogba, to name a few. But almost all of its talented players end up playing abroad.
(Cross)
Lakaje: In Evaton, a town south of Johannesburg, a football academy is hoping to rectify this situation. Named after Spanish LaLiga club Celta Vigo, who recently announced a partnership, they are investing in local talent and training facilities. Teen soccer players are working hard, training in soccer field with gravel patches.
THEMBA DLAMINI: Kids will come here, walk about 30 minutes round trip.
Lakaji: Themba Dlamini, the academy’s founder, says he’s doing everything he can to get the best out of his juniors.
Dlamini: Sometimes they have no resources, soccer balls to play soccer, and they have nothing to eat. And this is very difficult because we do not have sponsors.
Lakagi: His young players certainly have the will to win.
Welcome: (speaking in a language other than English).
Lakaji: “Football is something I love,” 16-year-old Samelu Nhlongwani told me. “When I get here, I find happiness. I found a family. When I grow up, I would like to play in La Liga in Spain. Now, in the FIFA World Cup, I support Brazil because they have great quality.”
KWANDOKUHLE HELENTI: (Speak a language other than English).
LAKAJE: “When I play soccer, I am at peace,” Kwandokuhle Hlenti tells me. “When there are problems at home, I can calm my head on the field. I would like to play at the professional level.” He also told me that he supports Brazil and France in the World Cup this year because they both have great players.
(Sound of kicking a soccer ball)
Lakaje: Danny Jordan says the future of African football will depend on the right investment and development.
Jordan: I think you’re going to see more drivers of development on the continent, and I think in the next World Cup, we’ll be able to see the impact of that investment.
Lakaje: Africa dreams of seeing an African country lift the World Cup, and that dream is certainly within reach. But maybe not yet. Mpho Lakaji, Evaton outside Johannesburg.
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