Fun facts on the World Cup, biggest, most exalted sporting event on the planet

Fun facts on the World Cup, biggest, most exalted sporting event on the planet

More than half of football fans in Kenya will watch this year’s games from the comfort of their houses, says survey

With the 2018 Fifa World Cup just days away, more than half of Kenyans who intend to watch the games say they will do so from the comfort of their homes, while about a quarter prefer restaurants and clubs, reveals a survey on viewing habits.

Four in five sub Saharan Africans aged 15 and above, including a majority of women, say they will watch the tournament, according to the recent GeoPoll survey. If they keep their word, the viewership of the tournament that kicks off in Russia on June 14 will surpass that of the last games in Brazil in 2014.

About 3.5 billion people watched the 2014 games globally, with African viewership peaking in the first round match between Nigeria and Iran that ended in a goalless draw. The match was watched by 25 million Africans. Although males were consistent in their viewership in all the matches, females were more interested in watching games that involved African teams.

This year, NTV has the TV rights to broadcast the World Cup in Kenya.

Fifa sold the TV rights for the last World Cup for about Sh246 billion and made a further Sh171 billion from marketing and licensing rights. Only about one in Sh9 of the revenue it generated came from actual ticket sales. This year, NTV has the TV rights to broadcast the World Cup in Kenya.

There will be five African countries playing in the tournament namely Senegal, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia. The World Cup is being hosted in Europe for the 11th time, the most by any continent. However, only a third of Africans who took part in the survey identified the participating African countries by name. South America has hosted the games five times, North America (three) and Africa and Asia (once each).



Pele’s prediction

Despite Africa’s passion for football, many of the 39 appearances by African teams in past World Cups have been lukewarm. Given the good performance of footballers from Africa in the European leagues, the greatest footballer of all time Brazilian Pele in 1977 predicted that an African nation would win the World Cup before the year 2000. He was wrong. Since the tournament started in 1930, the highest level attained by African nations was the quarter-finals by Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010).

Pele, a three-time World Cup winner, became the youngest player ever to appear in a World Cup final when he made his debut in Sweden in 1958 aged just 17. Brazil clinched the trophy.

Egypt was the first African nation to participate in the World Cup but lost all their matches in the 1934 tournament.

The year 1990 saw the first African nation, Cameroon, reach the quarter finals. The team was filled with players from Cameroonian domestic league led by an unknown coach. In that match, England scored first before Cameroon came back with two goals to take the lead. However, in the 82nd minute, England were awarded a penalty which they scored taking the game to extra time. Another penalty was given to England in the 105th minute with the match ending 3-2 in their favour.

The most memorable moment was in Milan, where the nine-man team beat Diego Maradona captained Argentina 1-0. Two Cameroonian players were red-carded in the match. The mesmerising Maradona, who had scored the goal of the century in the World Cup four years earlier and won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player, would later praise Cameroon.

The star of the Cameroon team was football legend Roger Milla., who had been recalled from retirement at age 38 at the request of then Cameroonian President Paul Biya to boost the team’s morale.

It would take another two World Cups for another African team, Senegal, to reach the quarter finals. In 2002, Senegal lost 1-0 to Turkey in extra time by the golden goal rule, in the quarters. Under this rule, a match that had gone into extra time after the initial 90 minutes of play would be determined by the first goal to be scored. The rule would later be abolished by the International Football Association Board, in 2004, marking a return to the 30 minutes extra time and penalties. Ghana too reached the quarter finals of 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but were defeated by Uruguay in a dramatic match. The Black Stars had an obvious goal denied when Uruguayan player Luis Suarez blocked it through a handball in the 119th minute. He was red-carded for the offence but Ghanaian striker Asamoah Gyan had his shot hit the post, taking the game into penalty shootouts. Ghana lost 4-2.

Kenya has never featured in the World Cup, with the furthest Harambee Stars have gone in international football being the African Cup of Nations in 2004. “There are two ways in which you get to the World Cup,” says Nick Mwendwa, the Football Kenya Federation President. “One, is you have a golden generation like Senegal had in 2002. Two, is to work from grassroots for many years to develop the talent and expertise required to get there.”

Samba style

Brazil is the most decorated team in the World Cup, having participated in all the 20 tournaments and won five trophies, the most of any country. Three of the wins were outside their continent, South America. The country has also produced the highest number of top goal scorers in the competition at five, and outstanding players. Famed for their immense pool of talent, and their entertaining Ginga and Samba style of football that entails fast flowing attacking football and creativity, Brazil gained global admiration from football fans. Italy and Germany each have four trophies, followed by Uruguay and Argentina each with two. The only other country that has won outside its continent is Spain when they lifted the World Cup trophy in South Africa.

Cameroon has featured seven times in the World Cup, the most of any African country, followed by Nigeria (six), Morocco and Tunisia (five each) and Algeria (four). South Africa, Ghana, Egypt and Ivory Coast have appeared three times each, Senegal (two) and Zaire, Angola, and Togo one each. The count includes this year’s appearances.

Brazil, Germany and Spain are favourites in this year’s games, according to football pundits and several surveys, including the GeoPoll one.
Africa’s participation in the World Cup is usually accompanied by drama and colour, from training boycotts to unique celebrations to political interference.

Who can forget the memorable colourful celebrations by African teams, from the makossa dance by Roger Milla in the 1990 World Cup to the seven celebratory somersault show by Nigeria’s Julius Aghahowa in 2002, and the Azonto dance by Ghana in the 2010 World Cup.

Mobutu’s warning

But it is not always all joy at the tournament. In 1971, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) made their debut in the tournament but received a thrashing, prompting President Mobutu Sese Seko to issue a warning to the team. After being defeated 9-0 by Yugoslavia, Mobutu warned the team that they would not be allowed back into the country if they would be beaten four goals and more by Brazil. He had rewarded the players for qualifying to the World Cup each with a car and a house. The team was beaten 3-0 by Brazil.

During the match, Zaire’s Mwepu Ilunga, sprinted from the free kick wall and kicked the ball away, in protest for President Mobutu’s reluctance to pay the players their bonuses.

In 2014, Ghanaian players boycotted training and threatened to walk out of the tournament due to unpaid bonuses, prompting the government through the Ghana Football Association to fly in about Sh304 million in cash to the players. The Super Eagles of Nigeria too had a similar incident, which forced then

President Goodluck Jonathan to intervene, assuring senior players that their bonuses would be paid. The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon failed to board the plane to Brazil due to money issues, but later did, arriving a day late.

The first African footballer to score at the World Cup was Abdulrahman Fawzi of Egypt in the 1934 games. Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan is the leading goal scorer in the tournament, having scored six times. Globally, the top goal scorer is Germany’s Miroslav Klose, who netted 16 goals followed closely by retired Brazilian striker Ronaldo (15).

Cameroon’s Roger Milla is the oldest goal scorer in the tournament, scoring against the US in a 6-1 defeat in 1994 at the age of 42.
A total of 2,379 goals have been scored, according to Fifa World Cup All Time Statistics. The most goals per match scored were in 1954 in Switzerland, which saw an average of five goals scored per game. The least goals scored per match were in the 1990, 2006 and 2010 competitions where an average of two goals were netted per match.

This year’s competition kicks off when hosts Russia play Saudi Arabia in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on June 14. After a total of 64 matches played in 12 venues across 11 different Russian cities, the champions will be crowned in the same arena on 15 July.