A former iconic goalkeeper for Olympique de Marseille, Girondins de Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne, Joseph-Antoine Bell was also selected 70 times for the Cameroonian Indomitable Lions team (1976-1994). At the age of 68, he delivers his analysis of African football and advocates the design of a single continental model.
We speak more easily of “African” football than of “European” football. However, of course, there is not just one African football. Does this generalization bother you?
We also use the general term “European football” without anyone getting upset. We know that the Germans are Germans, the English are English, etc. Even if the defenders of Afrique ont tend to s’enerver trop easily à propos de this question, it is also true that when the Europeans dissent «Africains», ce n’est pas toujours dans le même sens that when they dissent « Europeans”. I remember that in my youth, a French journalist told me about my “Senegalese compatriot”. So only Africans would constitute a continent and be brothers to each other?
Beyond this generality, you have to pay close attention to each team, which only represents itself. There is a kind of logic of the weakest. From the moment the Africans don’t win the World Cup, if Cameroon reaches the quarterfinals, the whole continent will celebrate.
How do you explain that no African team has ever reached the quarterfinals?
We Africans sometimes tend to be navel-gazing, in the sense that we forget that football is also played in Asia or North America. We are convinced that we are alone, with Europe where our players will play. Cameroon, for example, was stuck in the quarterfinals [lors du Mondial 1990]. Yes, we were the first in African football to go to the quarter-finals, but since then we’ve been out five times in the first round. Others have done better: South Korea was in the semifinals. You have to dust off everything to go further.
Our judgment on our teams is also altered by the African Cup of Nations (CAN). In Africa, the competition that follows the World Cup is the CAN. It’s like having an obstacle course and then a flat race. You tell yourself: ” I’m better. “ But that’s because you play against less strong teams… In Europe, after the World Cup, even if you can face a weak team, like Luxembourg, you can also compete against big players against teams that are in the top 10 or top 20 at the level world.
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