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The time is now!

THE African bug seems to have struck once again.

We are not talking about African football teams generally failing to do well at the World Cup finals.

That has become a ritual.

It’s about Africa revelling in mediocrity, stupid!

When hosts South Africa held Mexico to a one-all draw in the opening match of the 2010 World Cup last Friday, it was as if they had won the tournament.

South Africans blew their vuvuzelas.

Basotho joined them and the entire continent rejoiced too.

Yet few realised they were in fact celebrating underachievement.

Bafana Bafana should have won that match. Period.

It, however, did not take long for the euphoria created by the share of spoils to die down.

It took Uruguay, seen as the weakest team in South Africa’s group, to expose Bafana Bafana as mere also-rans.

After disaster struck at Loftus Versfeld, many Africans said: “At least we still have Ivory Coast and Ghana to carry the continent’s flag.”

For goodness sake, Ivory Coast should have won their match too against Portugal on Tuesday. The draw against Cristiano Ronaldo’s side could still come back to haunt Africa.

Yet we gleefully accepted the result — a goal-less draw — as a good omen that African football was coming of age.

Nigeria and Cameroon were already seen as spent forces by the time they arrived in South Africa for the biggest football event in the world.

That their defeats to Argentina and Japan respectively were not seen as disgraceful says a lot about African football.

African teams are perpetually expected to lose against the so-called football powerhouses.

Algeria, to their credit, had done their best by simply reaching South Africa yet their defeat to Slovenia should have been seen as scandalous.

While they redeemed themselves with a gallant 0-0 draw against England on Friday, it remains to be seen if that result will help them progress beyond the first round stage.

Ghana remain the knight in shining armour as they were the only African team to register a win in the World Cup’s opening matches.

But the Black Stars, in true African style, yesterday could only come away with a point against a 10-man Australia thumped 4-0 by Germany last week.

It’s sad that African teams are content to be judged as having “potential”. But until that potential is exploited there is nothing to celebrate.

African teams should stop being the also-rans at the World Cup and go to the tournament aiming to achieve more than “rubbing shoulders” with some of the world’s best players.

Unless we overcome our inferiority complex — if not colonial mentality — Africa will have to live with perennial underachievement.

What makes Africa’s case scandalous is that teams from the continent have dominated world youth tournaments and won some of them.

Africa’s tragedy at the moment is that we don’t believe we can do better than any European or South American team.

Of course we have seen African countries beating sides from those continents, but if those victories have not meant anything really then they have been flukes.

For how long will African teams go to the World Cup aiming just to avoid humiliating defeats in the group stages?

Or to post occasional shock results that won’t take them anywhere?

The continent boasts world-class players plying their trade in the top European leagues.

All the African teams at the World Cup, save for Algeria, have experienced foreign coaches.

So why on earth should African teams not do as well as their European or South American counterparts?

Granted even World Cup title favourites — including Spain, England and Italy — have struggled in South Africa.

But that cannot in any way be an excuse for African teams that are failing to rise to the occasion on home soil.

We as a continent are obviously proud to be hosting the World Cup for the first time.

But we want to be proud of winning on the field of play too.

This can only happen if African teams start believing that they are good enough to win.

And it can only help if we all stop revelling in mediocrity and underachievement.

African football cannot be all about juju and physicality.

It must also be about skill and winning.

And the time is now! Ke nako!

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