ADDIS ABABA – Today is the 19th day since the start of the 2018 Russian World Cup. We have only 12 days to go to mark the end of this big global event on July 15.
So far the Russian 2018 World Cup Organizing committee has enjoyed appreciation for the good attitude of the games. The security aspect is worth praising up to now. The hospitality is commendable. In hospitality South Korea was seen as a best host nation to this day but now in the eyes of many Russia takes the lead.
In Ethiopia most of the football fans were glued to watch the events in front of their TV for the last 19 days.
Most of the matches were worthy of watching. There were also surprises in the results. One shock result was the 2-0 defeat of the global football super power Germany by the relatively outsiders South Korea. That brought the first debacle for Germany to go out of the World Cup in the early stage after 1936.
Africa suffers worst tournament since 1986
The great African footballer Didier Drogba who scored 65 goals in 104 appearances for Ivory Coast said that after the exit of Senegal African football has suffered a "big step back" and it is continent's worst World Cup showing for 32 years.
All the five Africa representatives Senegal, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia had already fallen at the group stage.
The record shows that no team from Africa has advanced beyond the quarter-finals at a World Cup. However, since 1986 - when Algeria and Cameroon went out at the group stage - at least one country from the continent has made it to the knockout stage. Three African nations have reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup: Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010.
In Russia Africans have failed even to maintain that record.
African poor results
The highly regarded Egypt lost all three Group A games in Russia, while Morocco managed just one point - against Spain - in Group B. The injury of Salah, their best footballer, was seen as the alleged reason for their defeat.
Tunisia lost their opening two Group G matches before beating Panama when both sides had already been eliminated and, although Nigeria beat Iceland, they have also exited the tournament after finishing third in Group D.
Senegal, making their first appearance at the World Cup since reaching the quarter-finalists in 2002, had taken four points from their first two Group H games after beating Poland and drawing with Japan.
Sad coincidence for Senegal
Senegal became the first team in World Cup history to go out on the fair play rule after losing to Colombia.
Senegal, commonly called the Teranga Lions, would have progressed with a draw against Colombia but they were defeated 1-0.
What was the story behind this? Japan reached the last 16 despite a 1-0 defeat by Poland, as Colombia beat Senegal by the same 1-0 score in the group's other match.
But that does not tell the whole story. Look at this fact: Japan and Senegal came into their final games level on points, goal difference and goals scored.
Were that still the case at full-time, fair play would decide which team finished highest. Senegal had five bookings in their first two games to Japan's three.
When both sides fell 1-0 down - and having been shown one yellow card apiece - Japan were on course to qualify. That worked.
After the game in Volgograd ended, Japan's players, manager and fans had to wait for about a minute to get confirmation their gamble had paid off, Senegal had not scored and they were through to face Belgium.
Importance of regulation knowledge
Japan knew a second goal by Poland, who were already eliminated, or two bookings or a red card could knock them out.
So, with about 10 minutes to go, they decided to stick rather than twist - gambling on Senegal not eliminating them by scoring an equaliser against Colombia.
In scenes reminiscent of West Germany's infamous 1-0 win over Austria in 1982, Japan and Poland saw out the game at walking pace.
Despite having attacking players such as Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa on their bench, Japan brought on midfielder Makoto Hasebe, their captain, for forward Yoshinori Muto and sat deep.
They passed the ball around their defence and midfield when they had it, never crossing the halfway by more than a few yards. They let Poland - for whom this was a first win of the tournament - play in non-dangerous areas.
The crowd booed and whistled - just as they had 36 years ago when the 'Disgrace of Gijon' eliminated Algeria. Following that controversy, group stages were changed so the games finished at the same time.
Japanese players exploited the regulation at the end.
Reaction of Japan and Senegal coaches
Japan coach Akira Nishino said "it was a very tough decision". He added: "We did not go for victory but we just relied on the other match," he said. "That was slightly regrettable but I suppose at that point I didn't have any other plans.
"I am really not happy about how we played but... we wanted to go through to the round of 16 and we have, and that is the only salvation that I get."
Nishino said he passed on instructions when he sent on midfielder Hasebe - no risks and no yellow cards.
"What if we conceded another goal and it was 2-0?" he said. "We went through. Therefore perhaps it was the right decision."
"We have not qualified because we did not deserve to qualify," said Senegal boss Aliou Cisse, the former Birmingham City and Portsmouth player.
"Fair play points are one of the rules and these rules have been established in the tournament regulations. We have to respect that.
"We would have preferred to be eliminated in another way but that's the way it works and we knew that those were the regulations.
"I'm just disappointed for my team, for this generation and for these players who fight every single day for our country."
Hopes of Africa
"Africa is going to be successful one day but we need to think again how we approach these big competitions," said former Ivory Coast striker Drogba.
"What do we want to do in the next World Cup? We have the potential, we have the money to develop, but we need more than that.
"We need to have the consistency and the structure of the European teams and the South American teams.
Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul suggested rethinking the way African football is structured.
While the North Africans won their first World Cup game in 40 years on Thursday, a 2-1 win over new boys Panama, it counted for little after defeats to England and Belgium.
Maaloul said Tunisia were just not equipped for success.
“In order to do that, we need to have more of our players in professional leagues so they can learn and grow.”
“I don’t think we have high-quality performance, we need to change our lifestyle because it is not in line with high-level football, we need to change the way we train,” he said.
“We need two more generations to reach (the top) level of performance in terms of fitness and physical strength. We are far from the required level.”
Tunisia were thrashed by Belgium 5-2 in their second match in Russia.
It is disappointing that in a sport full of African players at the highest level, there are just two African coaches at this World Cup: Aliou Cissé of Senegal and Nabil Maaloul of Tunisia. All African representatives are out. What is to be done? Good to follow the advice of the coach of Tunisia Nabil Maaloul.
With 54 member countries, Africa has only one less nation than UEFA, European football’s governing body, but Europe has the lion’s share of teams at the World Cup, 14 including host Russia.
The expanded 48-team World Cup set to be held in north America in eight years’ time will see Africa getting nine places, still far fewer than Europe’s 16 slots.
African countries used to point to the imbalance as unfair.
But this argument has been quietly abandoned as results have failed to back calls for increased representation. The continent’s performance in Russia looks unlikely to change that situation.
ALL African University Games begins in Mekele
The 9th All Africa University Games began on Sunday at Mekele stadium in the presence of thousands of people.
This continental event brought together 980 athletes from 57 universities from 18 African countries. The Ethiopian universities including the Addis Ababa University have 11 participating teams, according to the organizers.
Participants from Nigeria, Botswana, Zambia and Ghana are expected to be tough contenders.
During the opening ceremony Dr. Debretsion Gebremichael, Deputy Administrator of Tigray Region said that this is a prestige and an honour for the Mekele University to host such a big continental event for the first time in Ethiopia’s history.
“This is not simply sports competitions. It also serves as a means to create good relation among the African high education students. Ethiopia as a capital of Africa will also serve as a continental centre for intellectuals,” Dr. Debretsion said.
Besides the sports competition there will be workshop among the participating universities. In this workshop papers will be presented, the organizers said.
The organizers said that the Game is set to be concluded next Friday on July 6.
Jima Abajifar, St. George kneck and kneck
Saint George are making a perfect title defence on 51 points from 28 games after beating the visiting side Wolayita Dicha 4-0 on Sunday at the Addis Ababa stadium.
With only two games to go Jima Abajifar had also a 3-0 win over Dedebit at Nazareth same day. As both teams
succeeded in collecting the full three points, Jima Abajifar maintained the league leadership with equal 51 points from 28 games on goal difference.
The result of Jima was little expected considering their promotion to the elite league at the start of this season.
The Addis side Electric managed to collect three points with a 4-1 home win over Fasil City. Electric are now in a better position to avoid relegation.
Wolwalo Adigrat University also managed in beating Adama City.
Wubetu aspires to take national team
Wubetu Abate came to prominence after winning the Ethiopian Premier League title with Addis side Coffee. That was the only title for Coffee in the league’s 21-year history.
Wubetu who is currently in charge of Hawasa City, has shown big interest to guide the national team into the coming African Nations Cup qualifiers.
The national team is without a coach for the last six or so months after Ashenafi Bekele resigned from this national responsibility.
Coaches such as Gebremedhin Haile and Yohanes Sahile are also expected to run for this top national football position.