Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, Cameroon and Ivory Coast are considered some of the giants of African football. And you do not need to be a rocket scientist to understand why these West and Central African countries dominate continental football.
You just have to scrutinize their starting line-ups whenever there is a major continental competition like qualifiers for the African nations Cup or FIFA World Cup. Their squads are packed with players plying their trade across Europe.
The reason is because players from these countries are ambitious. From an early age even though they might still be in nappies, they are conditioned to aim very high and their attitude and mindset is geared towards playing for some of the world’s biggest brands and they aim for that objective.
I recall listening to a video recording of a 14-year-old Ivorian player studying at the famed ASEC Mimosas. He was asked his ambitions and he matter-of-factly revealed that his greatest objective was to play for Barcelona. A decade later, he achieved his ambition. His name is Yaya Toure!
Now most South African youngsters have a different mindset. I wouldn’t say it is a lack of ambition. But most youngsters aim to play for either Mamelodi Sundowns, Orlando Pirates or Kaizer Chiefs. Mind you, there is nothing wrong in aiming for the top clubs in the country.
But they need to dream bigger. Chiefs, Pirates and Sundowns should not be the ultimate objective. They should not put ceilings over their heads but consider the sky as the limit by changing their mindset and instead also start dreaming of playing for Manchester City, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich.
It is for this reason that I was not only pleasantly surprised but greatly impressed to read in the local media that Kaizer Chiefs 19-year old defender Njabulo Blom’s greatest ambition is to play for Real Madrid!
Now, that is what I’m talking about when it comes to dreams. Remember if you dream it, you can live it! It is about time our players threw away this inferiority complex and for a change, considered themselves good enough to exchange tackles with the Madrid’s and Barcelona’s’ of this world.
I accept that our local teams are now paying decent salaries but our players need to dream higher and try to get out of their comfort zones and instead try to get into the top leagues in Europe where they can pit themselves against some of the world’s greatest players.
This would come in handy when they have to represent their country in major global competitions. Sometimes today’s youngsters turn to get upset when we remind them of the class of 1996. But the truth of the matter is that 90% of that team was packed with players that were active in Europe.
Andre Arendse (Fulham); Sizwe Motaung (St Gallen); David Nyathi (Tenerife); Lucas Radebe (Leeds United); Mark Fish (Lazio); Eric Tinkler (Cagliari); Shoes Moshoeu (Gençlerbirligi); Helman Mkhalele (Kayserispor); Doctor Khumalo (Columbus Crew); Shaun Bartlett (Colorado Rapids); Mark Williams (Wolves) Chippa Masinga (Leeds United)….need I say more?
Bravo to Njabulo Blom and I wish mechanism can be put in place to ensure that players like him and nurtured, guided and their dreams become a reality.