TFN’s Ethan Meade takes a look at some of the African hopes at the 2014 World Cup…
“An African nation will win the World Cup before the year 2000” – Pele, 1977
“What Pele saw was the physical attributes that African players have, but what he probably didn’t take into consideration is the mentality necessary to win the World Cup. It’s not just about physical ability, it’s about your mentality.” – John Barnes, 2014
Pele’s bold prediction of 1977 has fallen somewhat short in the intervening years. The furthest an African team has reached is the quarter-final – the Roger Milla-inspired Cameroon side of 1990, and Ghana in 2010, denied by penalty heartbreak for Asamoah Gyan. This time around, Pele’s prophecy looks unlikely to be fulfilled. That said, in Nigeria and Ivory Coast, they boast two potential heavyweight’s in Brazil, whilst an enigmatic Algerian side will be joined by perennial challengers Ghana and Cameroon. Continue reading →
There is a bizarre nostalgia that affects people when they discuss Wayne Rooney. The prevalent view seems to be that he had all the talent in the world, demonstrated it with carefree abandon during his teenage years and then got spoiled by necessary on-pitch self-sacrifice and voluntary off-pitch self-sabotage. Now he is seen merely as a good player – not a genuinely great one, and certainly not the one we thought he would be.
This sudden about-turn in public opinion does not really tally up with what has been written and said about him up until now. Throughout his Manchester United career his performances have received glowing write-ups in the press and when he has underperformed – and it has happened repeatedly, sometimes for months on end – his industry and work-rate have seen him bundle in goals and escape the harshest criticism.
Perhaps it is a British journalism thing – “build ‘em up to knock ‘em down” and all that – but the idea that Rooney has not fulfilled his potential is quite ridiculous. As a conclusion, it is simply unfair. Sure, he has never hit the heights expected of him and his contribution to football pales in comparison to those of era-defining freaks Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but the reality is that he was never going to match them.
The problem lies not with Rooney but with us, his viewers. It is not that he never made the most of himself but more that we overestimated his talent to begin with. Continue reading →