Football is a cultural event in Africa

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As people everywhere have their eyes glued to their TV set so as to not miss a moment of the 2010 World Cup being held in South Africa, Rodolfo Zapata, an Argentine that coaches a local Nigerian football team, spoke to about Africans' expectations regarding the tournament and how, aside from all the global cultural differences, the sport is considered to be a way of life.

How is football perceived in Africa?
As in Argentina, football is also a cultural event in Africa. People feel identified. They see this World Cup as a party and they demonstrate it with the vuvuzelas. Football is a way of life, and beyond the techniques and strategies, players have an enormous affective commitment with their audience, which simply hopes to receive joy from their football's stars.

Is there any relationship between a people's way of life and how they play football?

I always say that people live how they play and play how they live. For example, that joy Brazilians have during their carnivals is transmitted onto the field when they play. Italy and Germany, however, people that have suffered wars, translate this sentiment by working tactically and being cautious with the result. In Asia, everyone runs or rides bicycles around the cities of Beijing, Tokyo, or Seoul. The same happens with their teams. In the United States, they say “time is money.” Life to them is a business and they take that to their Major League Soccer (MLS) and their national team. Football is a boring process. Sometimes, it can be a good business, but many times it isn't.

In the USA, they sell a shirt that reads “Soccer is Life,” and without realizing it, they explain in a few words a great truth: football represents, in each match, life itself. During a match, we encounter joy, sadness, justices, injustices, good and bad players or people, etc. The only difference is that in life, there is no second half. There is only one life and we should enjoy it, which is why I always tell my players that one has to live and play with all one has. I always invite my players to take risks and try impossible plays. I don't want, nor do I believe in, moral victories. It's not my nature. No one should be proud to lose, although one should be proud of the effort made to try to achieve a victory.

How does football in Africa differ from that in the rest of the world?

There is great human and football potential on this continent. It is a completely different race than ours. They have different customs and ambitions, a different way of life. They are a happy people and they make do with very little.

African football loyally represents its race. Despite the lack of resources, they are a joyful, fun, respectful, and educated people, but with a high level of disorganization in all aspects. Football transmits that in a reliable way: they play pretty, which isn't the same as playing well. The performance of Nigeria National Team was the best example. From now, we must begin the reconstruction of Nigerian Football. We should be able to replace the 'old' Eagles' players such as Joseph Yobo, Nwankwo Kanu, Rabiu Afolabi, Danny Shittu, John Utaka, Chidi Odiah, Obafemi Martins, Odemwingie, Yakubu, Kalu Uche, Ikechukwu Uche, Dickson Etuhu, Obinna Nwaneri, Sam Sodje, Seyi Olofinjana, Okonkwo Onyekachi and Yusuf Ayila.

The following players should form the basis of the new look Super Eagles:

Chibuzor Okonkwo (Bayelsa)
Stanley Ohawuchi (Bayelsa)
Bassey Akpan (Bayelsa)
Muhammad Shagari (Kano Pillars)
Solomon Okpako (Kano Pillars)
Ahmed Musa (Kano Pillars)
Gabriel Reuben (Enyimba)
Chinedu Ezimorah (Enyimba)
Stephen Worgu (Enyimba)
Okoro O. Moses (Enyimba)
Osas Idehen (Enyimba )
Mohammed Aliyu (Tornadoes)
Eugene Salami (Tornadoes)
Daniel Joshua (Tornadoes)
Samuel Tswanga (Tornadoes)
White Agwuocha (Kwara)
Sibi Gwar (Kwara)
Stanley Okoro (Heartland)
ThankGod Ike (Heartland)
Bartholomew Ibenegbu (Heartland)
Justin Brown (Heartland)
Bello Musa Kofarmata (Heartland)
Abdul Ajagun (Dolphins)
Omoh Ojabu (Dolphins)
Mutiu Adegoke (Dolphins)
Captain Ejindu (Dolphins)
Ehison Ekigho (Wolves)
Fengor Ogude (Wolves)
Emmanuel Igiebor (Wolves)
Terna Suswan (Lobi Stars)
Afolabi Seun (Gateway)
Nonso Elias (Rangers)
Ejike Uzoenyi (Rangers)
Emenike Nkume (Rangers)
Okechukwu Uchebo (Rangers)
Amakiri George (Ocean Boys)
Uche Nwofor (Shooting Stars)
Segun Oluwaniyi (Shooting Stars)
Haruna Babalo (Gombe)
Victor Ezeji (Sharks)
Michael Egbeta (Sharks)
Thankgod Amaefule (Sharks)
Oladele Ajiboye (Wikki Tourist)
Obiora Nwankwo (Wikki Tourist)
Rabiu Baita (Wikki Tourist)
Origoya Edile (Wikki Tourists)
Eriba Okwe (Wikki Tourists)
Edet Ibok (Wikki Tourists)
King Osanga (Akwa Utd.)
Kingsley Udoh (Akwa Utd.)
Uche Okafor (Kaduna)
Jude Aneke (Kaduna)
Efe Ambrose (Kaduna)
Abe (Sunshine Stars)
Salami (Sunshine Stars)
Ibrahim Babale (Sunshine Stars)
Adamu (Sunshine Stars)
Emmanuel (Sunshine Stars)
Danny Uchechi (Sunshine Stars)
Oladejo Olateru (Clique Sports Academy)
Dami Paul (Ousford Academy)
Aigbe Oliha (Igbino Babes)
Ogenyi Onazi (My People)
Sani Emmanuel (My People)
Fortune Chukwudi (A & B Academy)
Kenneth Omeruo (Hard Foundation)
Olarenwaju Kayode (Marvellous)
Terry Envoh (Mighty Jet)
Chukwujike Mgbam (Standard Academy)
Yusuf Otubanjo (Emmanuel Amunike Academy)
Amos Izuchukwu (Team Lagos)
Obinna Okoro (Young Stars)
Edafe Egbedi (Gizallo)
Deji Joel (Eco Academy)
Ramon Azeez (Future Pro Academy)

We also have to follow closely the development of -Daniel Adejo(Reggina, Italy), Lukman Haruna (Monaco, France), John Obi Mikel (Chelsea,England), Harmony Ikande (AC Milan, Italy), Rabiu Ibrahim (Sporting Lisboa,Portugal), Victor Obinna (Málaga, Spain), Uwa Elderson Echiejile (Braga,Portugal),Olufemi Adebayo(Boulogne) Dele Adeleye (Metalurh, Ukraine), Ideye Brown (Sochaux,France),Chinedu Obasi (Hoffenheim, Germany), Victor Anichebe (Everton, England) and Sone Aluko (Aberdeen, Scotland).

These players are still relevant in the new look Super Eagles to be formed after the World Cup. Right now,Nigeria should start preparing for the Olympic Games in London.The Olympic team will form the nucleus of the 2014 World Cup squad.

He also assured that “Argentina has the obligation of becoming champions or at least of making all the way to the big finale. We have a compromise with Argentine football history and people that hope to receive joy from their stars. We have a long football history to defend and a prestige that goes along with it. We all want to win; I don't know anyone who competes and wants to lose, but our goals are not the same as those of South Africa just to give an example. The host team is happy by simply be able to participate and organize this world's party, and if they move forward into the second round, even better!

Born in Buenos Aires in 1966, Zapata started his football career as a goalkeeper, but after 12 years in the fields, he was forced to call for a premature retire after consecutive knee injures. Since then, Rolo (as he likes to be called) found what seems to be his true vocation in life: teaching. Therefore, it didn't take him too long to realize that by just adding a dash of his other passion, he could get the perfect mix with the result being to become a professional football coach.

Currently, he is Head Coach of Sunshine Stars FC in the Nigeria Premier League. Prior to this position, he was Head Coach of the USA Olympic Development Program (New York) , United Nations International School (New York) and Alberta Soccer Association (Edmonton, Canada).

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