21 July 2018 09:45
Speech of the President of the Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF), Ahmad Ahmad, at the Conference to Evaluate Africa's Participantion at the Russia 2018 World Cup
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear friends,
I look forward to this occasion.
I look forward to having us talk, analyse and assess together the events that just happened in Russia, and go beyond that to deepen our reflections till we can be certain of:
- our perspectives of the future
- our strategic approach
- our new roadmap, a bearer of new horizons.
I have asked experts, technicians, specialists, footballers, managers to share their jottings, observations and certainties with us. They are here; I heartily say thank you to them.
We have just witnessed a FIFA World Cup that is very rich in lessons in every aspect.
We have been at the centre of the world's greatest sport event and we cannot come out of such an experience unchanged.
This World Cup surprised us first of all by the extent of the means implemented to organize it.
You saw it like myself, that Russia was not miserly when deploying huge means, when creating optimal conditions, and with the men and women who were totally dedicated to the cause and who transformed their country to a land of incredible hospitality.
This overall hospitality right from the airport, the accommodation centres, around the stadia, inside the stadia, in living spaces, in the streets of all the cities, was exceptional.
The entrance into the stadiums where the matches were played was also a novelty as concerns the automation, the fluidity of the crowd, and the discreet but firm security.
From a general global viewpoint, the World Cup in Russia is surely one of the most successful, one of the best in ambiance and atmosphere and of course one of the richest to dissect and analyse.
For this brilliant success is a challenge to all of us.
The hard work, seriousness, planning, rigour, willingness to do things well, the ardent desire to serve you country, which in itself attends to the vast diversity of the international community.
This success is a challenge to us as it brings us to consider our own limitations and our own ways of acting when it comes to organising continental and international competitions.
What did the Russian organisers do to attain such a level of success?
How did they prioritise their activities or processes?
How did they go through the meanders of FIFA’s huge terms of reference?
These questions are in themselves sufficient to understand the magnitude of the work done by the organising country.
The organising country took the time to comprehend, imagine, conceive and produce schemes, and execute them to the letter with dynamism, fluidity, flexibility, precision and efficacy.
Only then, and in such conditions, would the spectacle become beautiful, with a mind-blowing popular ambiance, that makes the world-class event to be desired, loved, and fondly envied every day.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have presented to you only some of the feelings that many significant leaders from the South, West, and the North of the planet have in common with us without hesitation.
Can we dream of applying such measures to our more beautiful CAF competitions, the Africa Cup of Nations, the CHAN or better still the Champions League amongst others, to hope to attain the highest level of organisation?
The answer is yes: WE CAN!!
However, we should be prudent when talking about our ability to organise.
And, of course, we also have to be realistic, conscious of our possibilities, conscious of our limitations and conscious especially of our weaknesses.
But, on the other hand, we must not, as it is said colloquially, CUT OUR COAT MORE THAN OUR SIZE.
- We should not table candidature to host a competition basing on some hypothetical funds not available at the time of submitting the candidature.
- We should not run up without first evaluating the needs and limitations of our specific countries
- We should no longer bet on virtualities or promises.
We must therefore change our mindsets if we wish to turn things around, if we wish to upgrade the level of organisation and measure up to the comtemporary criteria.
You know the African continent is always scrupulously scrutinized, in its every detail and person, especially by the wider international opinion; they do not and would not make it easy for us.
That is why today, together with you I want to take on this new vision, on everything that we could review in our system of organising competitions.
No matter the competition, whether prestigious or not, whether men's, women's or youth'.
I would like us to discuss and decide new specific rules that will align us to a new era: the era of quasi-perfect organisation, the era of planning, the era of rigour, and the era of work well done.
We must break away from the habit of doing things without precision, and from political promises which often do not have any guarantee. We must stop under-rating our ambitions. We must separate from our old habits that make us dream basing on false calculations and guarantees.
Our youths today have the opportunity of having a greater level of training; we have to count on them for they are our present force and our tremendous hope in the future. Let us render our managing staff youthful; let us go for the most competent, with recognised expertise in our national federations.
To Passionate and Motivated Youths
Let us mobilize for a true cause, that is feasible, convincing and capable of stimulating a vast reconstruction movement.
This is my most urgent invite to build an African football renaissance; even more urgently to reconstruct that which is not working, that which no longer works, that which did not properly work.
Let us look at the purely sporting aspects of this World Cup in Russia:
Africa participates officially since 1970 with the epic Moroccan Allal, Bamous and Farras; even though Egypt took part in the 1934 edition in Italy, by invitation.
What can we note?
We have never won this World Cup! We have never gone beyond the quarter finals. Never has an African player been crowned the World's N°1.
If we analyse the World Cup that has just ended, it is even worst:
Our five representatives recorded only 15 goals in 15 matches, an own goal, and conceded a staggering 26 goals!!!
Out of the 15 matches, the 5 Africans won 3 matches, had two draws and lost 10 times!!!!!
This is a trifling and worrisome result. None went beyond the First round.
Why such a derailment? Why such a result?
Meanwhile, African players are flourishing at the most prestigious clubs on earth. Meanwhile, our continent is seen as the universal reservoir of talents. Meanwhile, we have such a public that the entire world envies us.
What does our representatives lack to arduously, talentedly and effectively rival the world's best?
Is it due to preparatory dysfunctions? Is it due to poor workforce management?
As a comparison, Asia did not do better. With 5 representatives, they scored only 15 goals and took in 24; but qualified one of its teams, Japan for the 1/16th rounds. In total, the Asians won 3 matches, recorded 2 draws, and lost 10 times!!!!
Like Africans, the Asians have never won the World Cup. Meanwhile, specialists seem to give credence to the theory that intrinsically, thus technically, African players are almost at the best world levels.
So why are the results of our national teams this weak? This irregular? This inconsistent?
To this question, each one of us will have a line of argument; but I wish that it should be you: experienced coaches, legends, specialists and experts that should give the correct answers, and the good tools to redress the situation.
Still at the statistical and comparative level, Oceania had no representative; the largest number of representatives was from the Europeans, winners of the 4 world titles since 2006.
With 14 teams, the Europeans registered 102 goals and conceded 77. They totaled 35 victories, 2 draws and 21 defeats. This result puts them way beyond all the other continents.
I have presented to you these few statistics to give you an idea of the work we have to do within our clubs, our training centres and of course within our national Associations.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,
It is time we immediately get back to work. We have to inspire new actions, we have to be imaginative to attain a much higher level, be stronger, more studious, more effective and with much more credible results.
It is with you, men and women on the field, that we would find solutions to change things, for, henceforth, we have to CHANGE THINGS.
On our Continent, the frenzy for Football is unique.
It is like a devouring passion. It brings about moments and sublimation; but the essentials - the performance and titles, are not there to back these up.
Our football has to assert itself on the global scene with real results. And why not exploits. It has to simultaneously reflect talent and nobility; and especially strong and convincing results.
And to get there, there is only one recipe: an immediate return to work, I repeat, and a rational development right from the base through to the highest level.
In this state of evolution, CAF's commitment will be total, without reserve and I assure you, I will personally be watchful, with the strong feeling that together we can all succeed.
Long live the core values of our football!
Long live the actors, volunteers, executives and leaders from across our continent!
Long live Confédération Africaine de Football!