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. He also assured that “Argentina has the obligation of becoming champions.”
How are the African people living the World Cup?
Africans have many expectations. For the first time, the World Cup is being held on their continent, and they believe this will be their only opportunity in history to crown an African team as world champions. This is why all the countries are united.
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 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 United States, 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, 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. In this World Cup, they have nothing to lose, but much to gain.
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