25 Jun

How Senegal became a soccer fan favorite at World Cup 2018

As the World Cup moves into its final group stage matches, one of the teams that has quickly become one of the neutrals’ favourites is Senegal.

Prior to the tournament, the team received very little by way of attention. For teams from Africa, Nigeria stole the headlines with their popular jersey and Iceland with its tiny population and its unlikely story and its fans’ ‘thunderclap’ chant had won the underdog plaudits.

But Senegal’s relatively low profile has proved a bit of a competitive advantage as they became the first African side to win a group match after Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco flopped.

While Nigeria initially under performed and made a comeback. Senegal’s Teranga Lions seem to have the better chance of going further in the tournament.

But Senegal’s quiet campaign belies the talent in the squad. Among a host of skillful players is star man Sadio Mané—who became the most expensive African player in 2016 and partnered Mo Salah last season to give Liverpool a throwback to its glory days with a run to Europe’s biggest club match, the Champions League final in May.

Senegal does have pedigree. Their proudest soccer achievement was at the 2002 World Cup co-hosted by Japan and South Korea. Avoiding defeat on Sunday against Japan in Ekaterinburg will extend their group stage unbeaten run at the World Cup to five games.

But they have been making history since their appearance at the tournament in 2002. In that campaign, they saw off then defending champions and former coloniser, France in one of sports most defining underdog triumph moments.

A remnant of that dream team that reached the last eight in 2oo2 is present in the current squad in the form of the meme-friendly hipster coach, Aliou Cissé, who was once the captain of the team.

Once again, Cissé, 42, is making waves on the big stage as the only black coach on the touchlines in Russia. Even the most populous black country, Nigeria, is being managed by a white 64-year old German.

To read the full article, click here.

19 Jun

The history behind Morocco’s “Africa” World Cup

Morocco’s fifth bid to host the World Cup, like its previous four, ended in disappointment.

After a vote by FIFA member nations on June 13, the “United” bid of the United States, Canada and Mexico was picked ahead of Morocco to host the 2026 World Cup.

Morocco notched 65 votes, compared to 134 by the United bid. Crucially, 11 African countries voted against Morocco’s bid despite its projection of a united front for another “Africa” World Cup.

That lack of African support proved costly as, to have any chance of winning the 104 votes required for a simple majority, Morocco needed the 54 votes held by Africa’s federations.

Some of the opposition to Morocco’s bid within the continent stemmed from a four-decade old territory dispute: Morocco’s annexation of Western Sahara also known as Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), a former Spanish colony in 1975.

South Africa, the first African country to host the World Cup in 2010, was one of the major opponents of Morocco’s bid over its Western Sahara claims.

Both countries have had a strained relationship since 2004 when South Africa recognized the Western Sahara’s independence.

Similarly, Namibia voted against Morocco’s bid saying “it will never support nor align itself with a colonizer” in reference to Morocco’s annexation of Western Sahara.

After World War 1, Namibia was itself occupied by neighbor South Africa for 75 years until 1990.

Politics over Western Sahara territory have lingered for years. In January 2017, Morocco rejoined the African Union after a 33-year absence since the union admitted Western Sahara as a member state in 1984.

But Morocco’s re-admission was voted against by 15 of the AU’s 54 member states. Morocco also asked the AU to re-consider its stance on recognising SADR when it requested to rejoin.

Morocco’s Africa foreign policy has markedly changed in recent years under King Mohammed VI.

To read the full article, click here.