The Effect of Science in shaping the history of Football in Africa

June 8, 2013 1:03 pm1 comment by:

Football is one of the team sports that have gradually been influenced by science. At first, the players, coaches and the governing board were against its introduction. They felt it would hinder the enjoyment or the flow of the game in the case of goal line technology.

Now, most in the sport are glad that it has been allowed into the game as it helps to prolong or save the careers and health of the stakeholders. It has a downside that we might choose to ignore just like any other gift in our life. In my view, it is also reshaping history of the African game for the best.

It helps countries with a smaller pool of natural gifted players to master the objective aspect of the game and reduce the wide gap that previously existed between certain countries. This is evident with the emergence of countries that were not previously renowned for their football teams such as Cape Verde Islands, Malawi, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Libya, and Liberia.

Currently, in the Africa World Cup Qualifiers Malawi, Tanzania, Libya and Liberia are second in their respective groups after playing 3 or 4 matches with Ethiopia sitting on top of their Group. If you an avid or occasional follower of Africa  football in the last decade or less, you will know that these countries are becoming a growing force in Africa football.

In the next coming weeks and months as they compete to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, it will be interesting to know whether countries such as Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Algeria, and Nigeria who sit above them keep the spot.

There is part of me that wants Ethiopia, Libya, Liberia or Tanzania to qualify but the other part wants the old big powerhouse countries with experience to have another crack at competing at the world stage.

But, what both parts agree is that a major part of the change is the introduction of science in training methods, nutrition and tactics employed by these teams. A good example is The Taifa Stars of Tanzania (FIFA ranking 116) with most of the squad based at home. Qualification for the 2016 World Cup will be their first competition in the world stage and on the domestic scene second time since 1980 African Cup of Nations.

Now, history tells us that there is reason for the series of failures to qualify but in recent years, the football team has been close to qualification. The Danish Coach Jan Poulsen said in an interview, there are pros and cons to having all the players at your disposal.

The pros are that the coach is able to have a closer look on a regular basis and adapt the training sessions to bring out the strengths of each player and the team in general.

This is easily possible with use of analysis video report of the number of pass completion, how many miles covered by a player, the heart rate monitor to keep track of their stamina.

Science has also influenced the footwear and clothing manufacturers, who conduct scientific research to improve the quality of the footwear. You just have to visit a sport store in your neighborhood to understand the variety of footwear that claims to assist with control, shooting or your ability to run faster.

This is all just to bridge that gap that exists between a natural talented team and well marshalled opposition.

The cons are that these players are not exposed to higher level of football on a regular basis and thus lessen the mental weakness that exists between these teams.

Even these can be reduced by employing physiotherapist to organise sessions.

I mentioned at the beginning of this article that it feels like we have decided to ignore the downside. I am talking about the super machines that operate in the midfield with a high work rate, low shooting accuracy record and with a form that changes like the British weather. You just have to look at the core of the players coming out of the continent to play for European teams to understand the effect of science on football in Africa.

We can choose to embrace the advantage of having science in shaping the average African professional football player. This in turn helps the previously less known countries to grow and challenge well known countries such as Cameroon, Algeria or Morocco that have relaxed on their laurels. This will create a healthy competition that helps to produce worthy champions of Africa, who will compete and stand a chance to win medals.

The alternative is to keep praying and hoping miracle will happen while other continents grow and keep the podium to themselves.



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