European colonialism of Africa has undoubtedly had and continues to have political, economic, and cultural consequences. Least of which in sport, particularly in what we call in the U.S. soccer and everywhere else in the world football. Given that we are in the midst of World Cup 2018 Qualifier searson in this post we’ll have some fun speculating on the FIFA World Soccer Rankings (FIFA Rankings) if colonialism never occurred.
Let’s turn to West Africa. Currently there are 5 Sub-Saharan African teams in the top 50 FIFA Rankings: Senegal, Cameroon, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Ghana aka The Black Stars. If you include the top 60 you can also add Ivory Coast. That’s a pretty strong team. Four of these countries are a part of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and for thousands of pre-colonial years various West African Empires such as Ghana and Mali rose and fell in this geographic area. It is not that far fetched to suggest, as was the case in Europe, that a modern federation of West African ethnic groups would have formed a modern nation state. Given the strength of these teams we think it reasonable to suggest a combined West African super team would be a top 5 FIFA team ready to compete for a World Cup.
Central and East Africa
Congo DR is ranked a more than respectable 28th in the world. The country which suffered under the brutal colonialism of Belgium and under the brutal rule of Mobutu is already one of the largest countries in the world. If Congo and Gabon, ranked in the 80’s and Cameroon ranked 35th joined the “Congo Federation” this would be a top 10 team.
The East African economic power Kenya (ranked 82), if it teamed up with Tanzania and Uganda (ranked 73), given their current rankings may produce a top 40 team under one flag.
South Africa is the highest ranked team in the South at 66. Zambia is ranked 96, Zimbabwe 101. And although Angola is rising economic power, in terms of football prowess it’s ranked 138. A unified Southern Africa for football purposes would likely produce no more than a top 50 team drawing from the top talent in each of the SADC nations.
Colonialism had many unforeseen consequences the least of which has been in soccer/football FIFA Rankings. The legacy of colonialism which included the drawing of borders by European powers has temporarily deprived Africa of a Ronaldo, Neymar, or a World Cup Champion. If African nations will not redraw the map for political or economic or cultural purposes. Do it for football.