FIFA World Cup 2018: Are European techniques killing African rhythms?

By Dileep Premachandran

In the 13 years that Brian Oliver spent as sports editor of The Observer, there was one sporting event he made it a point not to miss — football’s African Cup of Nations. The biennial competition was afforded the same gravitas as the European continental showpiece, with boots-on-ground reporting, features and interviews. Oliver himself soaked in the spectacle and was awed by the skills he found on the streets, where kids would nonchalantly juggle balls made from rags, orange peel and anything else that came to foot. 1990s was the decade when African football served notice.

Cameroon’s odyssey at Italia ’90 set the tone, and the Nigerian displays in ’94 and ’98 made us wonder just how soon an African side would lift the ultimate prize. A generation on, we are…

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