The Development and Growth of African Football
In the ten years between 1996 to 2006, African football has really made great advances. It was in 1996 at the Olympic games in Atlanta, Georgia, for instance that the Under 23 team of Nigeria defeated both Brazil and Argentina on their way to winning the gold medal in the male football category.
This feat was repeated at the 2000 Sydney Olympics with Cameroun winning the gold medal this time.
In this period also, the national football team of Senegal got to the quarterfinals of the 2002 world cup held in Korea-Japan. National teams of some African countries were also able to defeat or play draws with some of the world's major soccer powers like Brazil, Argentina, Spain in major competitions and friendlies.
At the youth group tournaments, African teams regularly get to the semi-finals and finals of such competitions. Teams from Nigeria and Ghana have even won the trophies at these levels.
Indeed, African football has really grown in leaps and bounds from what it used to be two decades ago or earlier.
Players like Samuel Etoo Fils of Barcelona, Austin'Jay-Jay 'Okocha formerly of Bolton, Frederick Kanoute of Sevilla, Kanu Nwankwo of Arsenal and Portsmouth, Obafemi Martins of Inter Milan and Newcastle, and lots of others have become household names all over Europe and the rest of the world.
Indeed, the Nigerian football team has broken into the top ranks of football, being ranked as number nine in the world many times by FIFA, the highest by any African country till date. Some other countries like Cameroun, Cote D'Ivoire, and so on even enjoy higher rankings by FIFA than many other European and South American footballing nations.
One of the factors that has helped the continent's soccer to grow to match up with the rest of the world has been the export of soccer talent to Europe.
Starting in the eighties, European clubs bought soccer players from Africa to play in their teams. The main reason for buying them then was the fact that the players were cheaper and would cost less to pay their wages than their counterparts from Europe.
Players like Stephen Keshi, former captain of Nigeria and now chief coach of Togo were among the first set of Africans to play football in Europe.
They paved the way for the invasion of the continent by the African legion that followed after.