Monday, May 31, 2010

Since football geography consists largely of Europe and South America, the rest of the real world is blank. Little, if anything, comes from the vast unknown periphery. Asia and the southern islands in the Pacific ocean have to be skipped – the lowest of the low were not of interest even as amusement. Africa merited higher – by 1974 there were few scattered and solitary voices prophesizing that Africa will be the next Brazil. Some day. Nobody really believed it, but tiny stream of news trickled to the centre. The strongest football in Africa was in the Arabic North, where at least football developed fairly early and was more or less organized in regular championships. Therefore, from European perspective, the North was the measuring stick, working both ways – northerners were expected to supply exotic outsiders to the World Cup finals, and if they failed, then either African football was improving or was sinking. All depending on the view of the occasional jaded European observer. Objectively, there was no doubt that African football was at best underdeveloped, but the continent was trying. The African Chamipions Cup was won by CARA (Brazzaville) for the first time in 1974.
The full name is Club Athletique Renaissance Aiglons and the club is nicknamed ‘the Eagles’. It hails from Republic of the Congo, also known as Congo Brazzaville, to faintly distinguish it from the bigger and more often newsworthy (if constant troubles are newsworthy) neighbour Congo Kinshasa, a country of many names through the years, and Zaire in 1974. Zaire won the African spot for the World Cup 1974, and CARA – the African club title. Wise men said that African football finally was rising – see the achievements deep down in the jungles! Now, any minute the vast talent will burst out. Of course, skeptics were quick to point out that Ghana was technically a giant in African football for many years and never managed to crawl to the World Cup. To this optimists argued that Ghana is precisely the example of African development – others were catching up and surpassing… which triggered objections, and so on, and on, circularly and fruitlessly. Never mind that – those were good years for equatorial Africa, if one uses local point of view. Apart from that – nothing, for there exists another measure: no European club hurried to sign African players. But champions are champions:
Front, left to right: Dibantsa, Mamounoubola, Mbemba, Poaty, Lakou, Moukila.
Second row: Amoyen – assistant coach, Mhoungou, Ngassaki, Yangat, Manoleche – coach, Nganga, Dengaky, Bakekolo, Mafimba, Mbouta, Tandou.A typical African team in every respect: absolutely unknown local players, may be paid, may be not, coached by European – more likely Eastern than Western one – coach, himself little known or entirely unknown. In this case – the coach is Romanian, and not very likely to ring any bells even at home.