'Africa not ready to win Word Cup'

HARARE - Liverpool legend John Barnes, who is visiting ?Harare, says African countries should improve on their mental approach if the continent is to win its first football World Cup.

The 2014 World Cup will be staged in Brazil in June with Africa being represented by Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Algeria, Ghana and Nigeria. No African team has ever won the soccer tournament.

Only Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana have reached the quarter-final stage of world football’s greatest showpiece.

Barnes, who is also a football analyst on SuperSport and football commentator on ESPN, arrived in the country on Thursday for a two-day visit organised by the local unit of British banking group Standard Chartered.

Standard Chartered Bank are the main sponsors of English Premiership side Liverpool and the partnership allows the bank access to some of the club’s most successful players to create a host of unique experiences for customers and clients around the world.

Addressing a press conference yesterday in the capital, Barnes revealed that African countries are not yet up to standard against the heavyweights of international football. 

“Pele said it would take an African nation to win the World Cup the next 20 years, and he said that about 30 years ago,” Barnes said.

“It was what Pele saw; the typical attributes that Africans are physical and they can compete with anyone. What probably Pele didn’t take into consideration is the mentality necessary to win the World Cup because it’s not about the physical ability but also the mental aspect.

“And I supposed that is where the African and developing football countries, of which Jamaica is one of them, needs to improve.” 

The Jamaican-born ?ex-footballer however, feels Ivory Coast have the pedigree to advance from the group stages.

“Ivory Coast have got very special players and I always hold up hope for their mentality to rise and discipline to get back.” 

Barnes had an opportunity to interact with local soccer academies and help motivate young soccer players particularly Aces Youth Soccer Academy where he also participated in the coaching sessions, where he encouraged the youngsters to remain dedicated. 

“I have visited a lot of developing countries whereby they have a lot of challenges. To make it to the top you just need to be disciplined, to be dedicated, to have the right ?attitude, the right mentality and to have your preparation.

“Preparation is the most important thing and it applies to all parts of life and not just football but anything you do in football you need to be dedicated.

“When you see all these kids who love Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo they don’t know the kind of effort they put to get to the top. They put a lot of effort Monday to Friday at training to be where they are.

Barnes, who featured 79 times for England, feels Liverpool are on the right path and has predicated a bright future for his former team.

“It’s about improvement and we have come a long way in short space of time because I am sure no one would have expected us to be where we are right now. 

“I think we are well ahead of the schedule probably we could win the league in the next two or three years.

“But this year has been fantastic, Liverpool fans will be disappointed if we don’t win the league. Having finished terribly last year to being where we are now I will take that.

“Yes, winning the league is fine, but if we can finish in the top four it’s a fantastic achievement, so I am looking forward to the coming years.

“Liverpool needs a stronger squad, a first XI which is fit and plays consistently. As we all know, you need a 16/17 men squad because when players lose form or get injured that’s when you need other players to come and supplement to continue.

“But hopefully now that we can be in the Champions League we gonna (sic) track better players to come and supplement the squad.”

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