International football’s problems in Africa, but it does have its uses.

By Tony Attwood

A month or so ago thcomedian Justin Moorhouse broadcast a few interesting thoughts on international football.   I heard part of it while driving, and wished I had recorded it.  Fortunately one of the newspapers obviously had their recorders running, and gave rundown of what he said:

“It’s probably going to upset some people but the thing I haven’t got the stomach for any more is the England football team.  I’m just so bored with that dreary pantomime.

Every couple of years, people who don’t like football get into it. People who support rubbish teams get into it. It’s just boring. I don’t feel English – I feel European. I’m an international man. I don’t believe in borders and flags. I can’t stand England. I can’t stand the carnival. I can’t stand the anticipation. I can’t stand the flags everywhere. I can’t stand the disruption to my life. So the England football team.

Go and stick it right up your St George’s Park – and leave it there!”

The response to this in some quarters is that it is Uefa’s fault, in expanding the format of their little competition, so that the result of who goes through from the group is known from before the first game, unless one of the big team dramatically falls over.  In short football waiting for prat falls.  Not the best advert for the game.

Mind you some people turn up – home and away, although I suspect the away trips have more to do with being a booze up and an attempt to have lots of equivalents of stag nights than with being about the football.

Of course the FA like it because it means they have more chance to get people into Wembley and make a little more dent into the debt that burdens the Association.  But I have never been sure that clearing the debt should be the driving force of football.  

But I suspect there are worries – not least that the TV audience is in decline of a falling off the cliff variety.  We had the headlines about more people watching a cookery show than the England games the time before last, and now the figures suggest that a programme about antiques and a hospital soap get bigger audiences.  Arsenal live on TV in the FA Cup get more too.

So crowds up, TV audience and interest from fans who go to watch their clubs in the Premier League very much down.  It is hard to sell a match in which a lot of people are just sitting there praying that their star players are not crippled.

But there is other trouble on the horizon.  The Africa Nations Cup, which takes players from the top leagues during January every couple of years is in difficulty.

Now I know I have to take it easy here because I have been accused of racism by speaking against this programme of events in the past, even though I always put my club before country, whatever continent the country is on.

The story so far is that Morocco were supposed to host the 2015 ACN but refused arguing that with worries that with Ebola around the last thing you want is people coming from infected areas and massing together in crowds.  

Now they have been thrown out of the competition as the organisers, CAF, try to find another host.   I am probably hopelessly cynical in thinking that the possible loss of lots of money in cancelling the competition is at the heart of the matter, so we’ll leave that.

It was suggested that Egypt might want to have a bash, not least to restore some international credibility after 2013 was declared the worst year for tourism (the country’s second biggest earner) in modern times.

Tourism income is said to have dropped to half its value of six years before with 1% occupancy of hotels in Luxor following the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi.  But as a propaganda weapon the citation that “terrorists don’t kill tourists” isn’t really a big pull, any more than the hope that Ebola doesn’t do football.  

South Africa has said no, while Nigeria seems interested as are Gabon and Angola.  So it might well go ahead, but as things stand we just don’t know.  

England on the other hand are battling their way forwards, and the squad includes the likes of K Gibbs, C Chambers, J Wilshere, A Oxlade Chamberlain, T Walcott, and D Welbeck.  

If they all played that would still not be a record – which is of seven Arsenal players in the England side all at once.  On that occasion we also supplied the physio.  And the ground.

Let’s hope the Scots don’t get too rough.   And indeed the Slovenians.  Mind you I rather liked Solvenia when I went there.  And come to think of it, I’ve always enjoyed my time in Scotland too

For one the international delay doesn’t really affect me as I am still in Australia with my daughter, aiming to travel back across the globe just before the Man U game, and then hopefully awake enough to make it to the match.  Indeed I choose this 3 week period of leave of absence because of the international break.  See it does have its uses..


24 Replies to “International football’s problems in Africa, but it does have its uses.”

  1. Tony, fears of Ebola spread is actually a good reason to cancel a tourney. However, what makes CAF really felt bad is the fact that Morocco betrayed its continent. If the country can lodge a complain for the tourney to be cancelled, the question we ask is ” why the FIFA club world cup is not being cancelled?” Does it mean that all the 16 teams that would qualify for the AfCON have Ebola in their country? Moreover,the countries we are praying for to be rid of this disease would not neccesarily qualify for the tournament.

  2. soglorious,

    Longest time my brother!

    You are so right about Morocco betraying its continent. It’s bad enough when Europeans/Americans go nuts and make irrational and bigoted decisions that are contrary to the science of the disease but this hurts a lot more.

    I don’t agree with you about the fear of Ebola being a good reason to cancel a continental tournament though. There has always been a fear of big events being targets of terrorism since 9/11 but how many events have been cancelled as a result? On the other hand, we now know for a fact that Ebola is curable which means that even if Ebola gets into Morocco, it does not necessarily mean that it will kill anyone. Of the number of cases reported in Europe or the US, the only fatality on record is a Liberian who died in the US and lack of insurance could be blamed more for his death than Ebola because other Americans, with medical insurance, who caught the disease were cured. Every single one of them. With terrorist strikes, on the other hand, it certain that lives will be lost.

    I don’t know how you see it but it looks to me like Arabic Morocco is giving the middle finger to her sub-Sahara AND black African brethren.

  3. I think the first question that had to be asked was if one of the countries where Ebola can be found in the last months had qualified for the CAF. If so special measurement could have been taken where the supporters of such countries would be monitored before entering Morocco. To be honest I don’t know if such countries had qualified for the CAF as the CAF appeals to me in the same way as the Fufa world cup does or the Uefa european championship: I couldn’t give a damn.

    If none of these “ebola-countries” was qualified then I don’t see the need to cancel the CAF by Morocco to be honest and then sanctions against them for cancelling it just 2 months before it should start are justified.

    About the disease itself I have the impression that this outbreak has been the catalyst for an breakthrough for curing it. Let’s hope that the doctors and pharmaceutical industry can produce a cure that can be given to all.

    And finally I want to express my appreciation for all those doctors and nurses who went in to the area from all over the world to help the people in fighting this terrible disease. Fingers crossed that in a few years time we can stop a possible outbreak of ebola right from the start because of better medication and better conditions for the people in Africa.

  4. umar,

    You posted twice but I still don’t get your point.

    Why would you want “to see ME in the stadiums to watch the african version of euro”? I don’t want to misinterpret your comment so please try again.

  5. Walter,

    As a European, I appreciate your unique view on this topic. I have seen some stupid and thinly veiled racist reactions to this Ebola crisis but it is nice to see a clear eyed and humane suggestion from you. I am not surprised though, you’ve always been a fair minded person.

    None of the countries that currently have Ebola are going to the Nations’ cup but as you suggested, why not screen the supporters from such countries if they qualify rather than a blanket cancellation a few months away from the competition?

    In the US, there have been many knee-jerk bigoted actions taken against residents of African descent, like a school banning a 7 year old from attending because she was in Nigeria (that WHO has declared Ebola free) for her aunt’s wedding. Ironically, once the father threatened them with a quarter of a million dollar lawsuit, the bigots changed their minds. Here in the UK, a Nigerian was stopped from working (he is on a Zero-hour contract) because he visited Nigeria (again, remember Nigeria is Ebola free). Interestingly, the man’s white wife was allowed to keep working at the same company despite having contact with the man.

    This is why Morocco’s decision is so painful to me. I don’t care about the Nations’ cup but this hurts because the country’s decision might further embolden those that have always wanted to act irrationally and out of bigotry on the matter. I mean if an African country is doing this, what stops the rest of the world from doing same or worse?

  6. Bootoomee, longest time indeed! But I have always been proud of all your comments on here. Keep it up bro. On the issue of AfCON, what Morocco did will give more ammunition to those that had always ridiculed my continent. It could be forgiven when semi-idiots ridicule Africa but it goes to a new level of shame when one of us could do that to us. I heard last week that an Asian country wanted to host the tourney for us so as to “help” CaF. Can you imagine that level of embarrassment caused by Morocco? I can’t but agree to your final submission that Morocco is giving the rest of the continent the middle finger.

  7. Equatorial Guinea has been chosen as the host. They had earlier been suspended from the tournament because they had fielded an ineligible player, but as host they have now qualified. They were also co-hosts with Gabon as recently as 2010. Not exactly a satisfactory end to the whole matter.

  8. Given the absolute furore over Ebola in Europe and the USA, I find it a little hypocritical to tell the Moroccans not to be worried.

    Also, there is no cure for Ebola. The sad thing is NOT Morocca being afraid to host the tournament, the really sad thing is that Ebola has been around for fourty years, and only now is there any effort to do something about it, but only because a few Westerners have been infected. Before now no one in the West really cared that hundreds of Africans had died from Ebola.

    But let’s all point fingers at Morocco instead.

    But that’s the way it is, eh?

  9. Quincy,

    First of all, there is a cure for Ebola. The fact that it is not available in the 3rd world is the issue that we should all be talking about. You wrote that “a few Westerners have been infected” so how come none of them is dead but all actually are cured, if there is no cure for the disease?

    You made some good points about Western apathy for the disease till it started infecting their people. I cannot agree with you more on that. But you ruined a good post by justifying Morocco’s position because some ignorant non-Africans have taken some stupid non-science based stands on the problem. You also gave an oversimplified and frankly, illogical conclusion which is very unlike your other comments on Untold.

    I don’t know your race and where you are from but Soglorious and me are Nigerians, so this is more personal to us. I am a proud black African but I know that our Arab brothers to the north don’t see us as equals. It is interesting that black Equatorial Guinea is willing to host the event. I guess the people of the country are less precious than their paler brothers from the north.

    Bigoted ignorant actions taken out of unfounded fears should not be excused because “others” are doing it. If Spain or Germany cancel an international tournament they are hosting because Guinea or Sierra Leone are going to be attending, I will still find their position untenable but seeing this from an African country when none of the Ebola affected countries are attending just hurt on a totally different level. AND, I really don’t give a damn about the CAF competition itself.

  10. Quincy, if you suggest that blame should not be apportioned to Morocco for the disgrace caused to Africa as a whole, please educate me on who to blame. And are you now suggesting that the government of E.Guinea has procured duplicate lives for their citizens so that they can replace any that gets infected with Ebola? Please have u asked yourself why Morocco still wants to host the FIFA World Club Cup? So, you mean the African Club Champion won’t attend with their fans because there is Ebola in their continent? DOUBLE STANDARDS. Shame on Morocco for disgracing and betraying Africans.
    I apologise if you are from there but as an adage says “if you sell your relatives cheap, you won’t buy them back with any amount of money”. They have sold us very very cheap and embraced the foreigners but tables will turn soon enough and they will need our help.
    I am sorry for my rants , I am just angry for this their action.

  11. Bootoomee, from the WHO website:

    “There is as yet no proven treatment available for EVD [Ebola virus disease]…No licensed vaccines are available yet, but 2 potential vaccines are undergoing human safety testing”

    I think you are being confused with the fact that the fatality rate for Ebola is around 50%, i.e. not everyone who contracts Ebola dies from it (taken from the same website). The people you refer to as being ‘cured’ simply recovered.

    Just look at the hysterical reaction to Ebola from Western governments. I for one can’t go around wagging my finger at the Moroccans.

  12. Quincy,

    Cured vs Recover? That’s nothing but semantics dude. The New York doctor was not declared ‘recovered’, he was cured.

    The question that you should be asking if you want to be fair is why none of the westerners who have contacted the disease has died but they’ve all recovered (to use your preferred term) but a huge 50% of Africans have.

    Morocco have legitimised the ignorant and bigoted stands of some westerners with their decision. I struggle to understand why you think this is fine because some idiots in the west have behaved in a similar hysterical manner.

  13. soglorious,

    I am as pissed as you on this issue. But while Quincy might be trying to be fair to Morocco, his “what’s the big deal about their action when others are also freaking out” is just a little hard to swallow.

  14. There has been five cases of Ebola in the West, one in Spain and four in the USA. One of those five people has died (20%). Compare that to roughly 14 000 people in Africa who contracted the disease, about 5 500 of them have died (roughly 39%). The number of cases in the West is too small to draw any conclusions.

    It’s not semantics. Have you understood the quote from the WHO website? There is no medicine that will cure Ebola, or vaccine that can prevent it.

    For me it’s just a case of not having double standards. The West has gone over the top with their reaction to Ebola, but we expect better from Morocco? Like I said, I prefer not to point fingers.

    For me, the real tragedy is not some football tournament. The real tragedy has been the general indifference from the West, until this was no longer just Africa’s problem. For me that’s much sadder than any football tournament.

  15. Quincy,

    There have only been 4 cases in the West. The man who died in America was a Liberian who travelled there with the disease and who had no health insurance. He doesn’t count as he was not treated until it was too late. The other 4 all survived AFTER TREATMENT with the New York doctor’s case being particularly poignant because he was at a similar state that the poor Liberian was (when he was turned back with aspirins by the Dallas hospital because he had no health insurance). The doctor who was treated at the same stage ‘recovered’ in less than 2 weeks. It has been 4 out of 4 for the West on this Ebola ‘recovery’ business.

    It is funny that you claim that the number is too insignificant because with the volume of the noise, it feels like thousands have been afflicted by the disease around here.

    You keep going on about Morocco being justified because of the attitudes of some ignoramuses in the West with: “The West has gone over the top with their reaction to Ebola, but we expect better from Morocco”

    But here is the problem with you position: NO Western government has taken Morocco’s stand on this disease. Yes, there have been people and parties in different countries advocating all kinds of draconian actions be taken but I am unaware of any government doing so. Please enlighten me if you know any.

    Morocco, an African country, is the first to enact anything this harsh on her own neighbours. While, as soglorious kept pointing out, they are going on with the World club cup which will include an African club and their Ebola infested supporters.

    You can go on defending them but those of us from the continent know what is going on and you will need to bear with our outrage.

  16. Quincy,

    What is ridiculous is your flippant dismissal of an issue that bothers somebody else because it doesn’t concern you. This was never about whether there is a cure for Ebola or not. You took the argument there. But it is not what this thread is about. It is about Morocco’s decision to stop Africans (here, read as black sub-Sahara Africans) while going on with the World Club’s competition.

    Morocco’s decision to not honour its hosting right of the CAF competition out of fear of Ebola is the main issue. Myself, soglorious and even the Belgian, Walter are all against this decision with Walter providing his usual fair-minded insight. You are the one that took a cavalier approach to this. Your willingness to excuse Morocco’s stupid decision despite saying yourself that it isn’t as bad as been made out is to be honest, patronising.

    You might as well write: “why blame Morocco, they are just acting like every other idiot in the west on the matter”. That you are willing to excuse the policy of a COUNTRY because some INDIVIDUALS elsewhere are acting in a similar ignorant fashion is condescending to the country in question. But to accuse those who are outraged of “pointing fingers” is just something else.

    Oh, the only person to have died of Ebola anywhere in the West is Thomas Eric Duncan and he is a Liberian ( ) The link that you provided does not help your case. It did not happen in the West. Westerners die of malaria in Africa too, should we count those as malaria fatalities in the West?

  17. Bootomee and Quincy……this ¨debate¨has spiraled out of control a bit and has strayed from the original topic so it needs to be reigned in. From what I understand, there are highly effective treatments for EBV but no definitive vaccine or cure per se. The real issue is that survival rates are much higher when effective and timely medical/pharmaceutical interventions happen in first class medical facilities, in other words in mostly first world countries. The other factor driving this irrational fear of EBV is that panicky morons in the Us believe that it is an airborne infection which is clearly untrue since it can only be transmitted by direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids and since infected people are not contagious until the actual symptoms appear, there is a grace period before there is any risk.
    I believe Quincy is trying to be rational and that Bootomee is trying to be transparent about his feelings of racist overtones to this whole story. Lets face it, if there were infections in the UK right now, EVERY event,hospital and citizen of the British Isles would be screaming to close the borders to Africans, regardless of country of origin and the NHA would be pilloried for not having cured the disease before it was discovered.

  18. Can I go on topic and then off?


    I am just back from another week with no Internet, and just CBC-Radio to listen to. We had Rememberance Day (Nov 11), some sexual harrassment, and a couple of programs about Ebola (and a host of other stuff).

    What western Africa seems to need the most, is about times 10 (or more) on the number of western trained doctors AND nurses AND lab technicians on the ground, with the equipment and facilities to support those people. But people are getting sick, and the people making decisions are tending to use knowledge akin to witchcraft, which is not having a significantly useful effect. One of the treatments seems to be recovering some kind of bloood product from survivors, and injecting that into recently infected. I do not know if this is practical in the field, but it seems to be one of the effective treatments for western health professionals transported back to the west if they become infected.

    Having various governments seeking to cut off access to their countries from the virus area is not helping. Canada and Australia seem to be this category. The USA has people making noises to do the same.

    From what I read long ago, and heard recently, in large part the treatment of people (health workers or others) in the “west” is largely a matter of treating symptoms. If intensive enough support for the immune system is given, the immune systems seems to be able to fight off the infections, leaving anti-bodies in the blodd stream. Is collecting these anti-bodies from recovered people, processing them, and injecting them into another person a “cure”.

    To me, this is a cure. However, trying to solve the problem in west Africa by searching for survivors and then helping one infected person per survivor (or two) is not a practical cure for the situation.

    Crowd sourcing solutions to problems in west Africa seems to be useful. But, writing to people active in crowd sourcing doesn’t seem to be a way for engineers who have a bit of a medical background from helping.

    As I said above, I listened to a lot of social issue stuff over the week. Lawyers, doctors, nurses, CEOs and lots of other people, all with opinions.

    In football, we now have Ched Evans and Sheffield United. Is spending 2 or so years in jail sufficient after being convicted of rape? Ban him from football forever? Ban him from sports forever? Have him beheaded (yes, I heard stories about this topic too)?

    Rangers were sent to the bottom leagues in Scotland, and are trying to work themselves back up. Perhaps something similar for Ched? A couple of years at the lowest professional level, at which point he can move up 1 level. Rinse and repeat.

  19. Given that this topic morphed into considerations of Ebola in west Africa, perhaps this will be of interest to some of the academically inclined.

    I am looking at a problem where a non-linear minimization is indicated, and I am thinking of the Theil-Sen index. I ran across a paper (54 pages) looking to explain the Theil-Sen mechanism. The first example chosen was “Intuitions: Measuring the World Distribution of Income”. Part 2 is “Applications: Decomposing the World Distribution of Income”. This paper is more useful to Untold, than it is to my geometry problem.

    I think some of you will find just what they are doing with income and population interesting. But, I think some of you may notice, that there may be similarities between the various sub groups of football teams: country, levels below the highest, financial doping, and so on.

    I am nominally half way through this paper, and we are using addition, multiplication, division and taking logarithms. No systems of equations, no calculus. Easily done with paper and pencil and calculator, or spread sheet.

    The paper expands to theoretically consider consider adding in the inequality of individuals for each country, data that we cannot get. But in looking at how breaking down the data that was available gave useful answers, tools were developed to allow one to work with approximate data. And I think at about page 35 or so, the paper is going to start losing readers. Pages 36,37 seem to be heading back to more approachable reading.

    I am not sure what you will see, but looking at page 37-38, I see something like this.

    We have a football team, with a population of about 40 (?). We have about 25 adult professionals, we may have a number of youth teams who may become first team members. We have some data about transfer fees and wages, and we have data about goals scored, cards obtained, and so on. Can we compare different football teams? Do we gain anything by examing what positions get what dollars?

    An article or two ago, I spent entirely too much time looking at medians, instead of the averages Walter usually works with. Medians are “robust”. The “entropy measures” of this paper are robust. But, ignore using averages and calculating standard deviation. Use the medians, and for a measure of width (dispersion) use the average of the absolute value of deviations. They are also more robust.

    Now, can we in a week’s time pull out of this painfull streak and generate a “robust” win against ManU?

    I see Podolski got a full game in against Gibralter (I believe 6 shots and 2 assists). Please, no injuries in the Internationals Break.


  20. omgarsenal,

    You are damn right I am outraged because of the racism behind Morocco’s decision. It is the same racism that has been driving all the pant-shitting from some in the West on disease.

    As a black African immigrant living in the West, I have always noticed how quickly white people try to be “rational” when subtle racism is taking place. I have heard the term ‘race card’ (a cop-out term devised to shut people up when they suffer from racism) used numerous times. It has got to the point where we just shake our heads and move on rather than complain about it.

    What I have always found funny though, is the society’s over the top reaction when celebrities and public figures are caught using racist terms. It seems like it is okay to deny a qualified and experienced black person a job or a promotion (as I have experienced MANY times) as long as you don’t call him a n*gger.

    Morocco’s action is racist and the fact that their Africanness now gives more ammunition to many in the West on how to be unreasonable about the disease is what is behind my outrage.

    The argument about “cure vs recovery” is up to the individual. I think that if one is sick of a disease and they are treated for that disease AND they are found to show no symptoms and test negative to the causative agent of the disease after the treatment, then they are cured. The drugs and treatment regiment might still be in testing stage but if 4 people out of 4 are administered with it and all recover, then I’d say that is a cure and it should be made available to our brethren dying in West Africa rather than go on arguing on semantics.

  21. The problem I would guess is most likely for the development of an Ebola outbreak at the ACN, would be one of generic problems of violence in the general population. Not someone “catching” ebola via airborne transmission watching the game at a stadium or television. If one or more people were attacked in some random act of violence, the close contact could allow for the transfer of body fluids which seems to be necessary for transmission of the virus. This seems to indicate to me, that one possible indicator for trouble, is an estimate of having adequate police on hand. Is Morocco especially deficient in this regard? I gather Equitorial Guinea has been given the tournament. Are they noticably better than Morocco in this regard?

    I think one of the Canadian contributions to fighting Ebola has lasting usefulness. The virus lab in Winnipeg has produced a diagnostic tool which is nominally a small glovebox (as I understand it), which can be carried to the problem. Which is a heck of a lot easier than carrying a wing of a building from place to place (or the mobile equivalent, of towing some kind of trailer with a truck).

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