On Sunday night, inside the Lusail Stadium, Lionel Messi finally completed a football match and, in doing so, brought Argentina to its first World Cup title in 36 years.
However, that’s not the only winning story to tell about the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
The Atlas Lions may not have made it to the podium, but by reaching the final four, they have gone further than any other African country has ever achieved and won the hearts of millions. across the continent and beyond. And in the process, they’ve proven they can take on any top competitor.
“African teams are no longer afraid that other teams can overtake them,” Radhi Jaidi, former Tunisia international and Esperance coach, told Al Jazeera.
Twelve years after South Africa became the continent’s first country to host the World Cup, it makes perfect sense to consider Qatar 2022 as Africa’s World Cup as well.
On the field, the continent has its best statistical record ever, with every African team scoring a win, including Cameroon beating Brazil, Tunisia beating France and Morocco beating Belgium. And off the pitch, supporters of the African teams also stole the show – from the relentless drumming and dancing of the Senegalese and Ghanaian teams to the thundering chants and claps of their Moroccan counterparts. and Tunisia.
And there’s more: For the first time, all five of the continent’s representatives are led by local managers.
While some might consider this association coincidental, the contrast between this tournament and the 2018 edition – in which two of the five teams were led by African coaches, but not Whichever made it through to the group stage and between them, won only three. Total number of matches – not to be missed.
For a continent that has, over the years, made it a habit to pay expats generous sums on short-term contracts, the achievement of Morocco’s Walid Regragui could lead to an awakening.
“The success of Morocco is important to the continent and other local coaches,” Jaidi said.
“It’s a great message to have a successful local manager,” he said, adding that qualified domestic adult coaches should be allowed to compete at the highest level. ,” he added.
“The recruitment of a foreign coach has always been seen by those in charge at the federations as an opportunity to convince the narrative that they have appointed someone cutting edge that will take the nation to the next level.”
While Jaidi wants African coaches to be more trusted, he also believes they must raise their level by achieving the required standards and exposure.
“African coaches have to strive to be the best in modern football, someone who takes their players to the next level, but before they have a chance to work with the players, they need to progress by yourself. They have to learn how modern football works, because it’s not just the tactics on the pitch, it’s so many other aspects.”
A bigger picture with the year 2026
With Qatar 2022 a thing of the past, attention will now turn to whether the African teams can build on their record in Qatar in the next edition of the tournament, which will feature 48 competing teams. No.
The expansion means the continent will have at least nine teams in the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada, with the possibility of a 10th representation if an African team makes it to the intercontinental knockout round. .
This is both a challenge and an opportunity, as Africa has historically suffered from underrepresentation on the international stage.
“Tournaments like the World Cup are very competitive and big, but if everything goes well and the players come to the tournament in good condition, I think Africa can make a big impact,” said the former coach. Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa member Philippe Troussier said. Al-Jazeera TV station.
“Morocco challenged other African nations to fight for the trophy instead of trying to celebrate small advances. This will change the face of African football and teams forever.”
When Success of African teams in Qatar suggests there is scope for improvement in North America by 2026, Jaidi insists there is still work to be done if the continent is to reach its full potential.
“We all need to learn from what Morocco has done to get to this level,” he said, citing the North African nation’s commitment to developing local coaches. – 20 of the 23 recipients of the African Football Confederation’s inaugural professional license in 2016. June is Morocco.
Jaidi continued, “Offering excellent infrastructure around the clubs and at the national level to achieve where it is today, a great league, one of the best football training centers in the world. world, seeking out local talent and the expat community.
“Their success was not accidental or accidental, it was planned and programmed and in part resulted in success in Qatar – and they continue to build on this.”
Former Wolves and Nigeria midfielder Seyi Olofinjana, who recently took over as technical director at Swiss club Grasshopper Zurich, shares the same view.
He told Al Jazeera: “There needs to be a way, a will and a deliberate plan on the part of the federations, which will then be disseminated to the players. “It is exciting to watch Morocco as they have succeeded in merging their plans with a proven manager and game-ready players with no lack of overall knowledge of the game. General objective.”
Another factor that may have led to Africa’s unprecedented success in the Middle East is the composition of their teams. More than 40% of the players on the list of the five representatives were born outside of Africa, a factor that Jaidi believes has contributed to leveling the playing field in Qatar.
For Troussier, the fact that African teams have a number of foreign-born players is also an advantage.
“Most of these players were trained from the start; a player born in Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands, they automatically play at a different level, they share time with world-class coaches, world-class players, technical and automatic programs When they come back home, they bring with them a powerful experience,” he said.
However, the French insist that local growth should not be ignored.
“These players will help improve the team, but the federations also have to prepare, build a program and a strategy that can help improve the country’s football,” he said.
According to Olofinjana, it is this combination of approaches that has helped Morocco – a team with 14 foreign-born players participating in the World Cup – benefit from it.
“It is clear that there is a culture of what it means to play for Morocco from the players, the technical staff and even the supporters,” he said. “You can feel the meaning of wearing a Moroccan shirt.
“The country has created a sense of the importance of representing Morocco. On the eve of the upcoming World Cup, Morocco has shown the rest of Africa that they are very likely to reach the semi-finals, even the final of the tournament.