As the Scottish Football Association prepares to host the third Under-lo World (‘up. between the ltlth and 24th of this month. back journalists from the international press will no doubt be looking to discover a new Pele. (‘ruyffor Maradona. Historically. our soccer super-heroes have come from the established footballing nations in South America and Iiurope. but there is every reason to suggest that the duopoly is about to be threatened — by Africa. When Zaire lost 3-() to Scotland. and then ‘)—t) to Yugoslavia a few days later. during the 1974 World (‘tip in West (iermany. football pundits tended to patronise teams from Africa. Scotland's slender win was seen to substantiate the view that such sides could perhaps offer initial resistance; Yugoslavia’s demolition seemed to prove that they could not keep with the pace. However. since then. Algeria. (‘aiiierooiL Morocco and Zambia have all made an impact in World (‘up and Olympic tournaments. and Nigeria visit Scotland with a record in the I'nder-lh championships that is unrivalled. having won the inaugural (invitation only) event in (‘hina in 1985 and reached the final of the most recent competition. which was held in ('anada in 1987. ’I'herefore. the stated aim of governing body. I-‘II-‘A. to truly internationalise the game should not be interpreted as just another act of condescension towards so-called "I'hird World' nations. Whilst the full World (‘up still retains a weighting in favour of South America and Iiurope. the In teams participating in its younger equivalent reflect the desire to give equal exposure to countries throughout the world. To this end. Iiurope. Africa. Asia. South America and North and (’entral America each have three representatives. The final place goes to Australia from the Australia and South Pacific Islands group. Scotland. as the host nation. were not required to qualify. bttt every other team had to negotiate a sometimes arduous trial of preliminary matches; which for Portugal and Iiast (iermany — the two other Iiuropean sides — involved reaching the final of the Iiuropean championship. held in Denmark less than a month ago. with the Portuguese registering a 4-1 victory. Following an opening ceremony which will boast many big-name players such as Pele. Scotland kick-off the tournament with a
58'I‘Iie List 2 r 15—.lune rust)
: Algeria beating West Germany? Zambia humiliating Italy? Morocco embarrassing England? Are we reallv talking about football? Perhaps an African nation is, capable of winning the World Cup. In the Under- I (3 version. to be held in Scotland this month. an African victory is not beyond the bounds ofpossibility. reports Mike Wilson.
match against (ihaiia. Nobody expects the game to be anything otherthan entertainingand closely contested. and one of the more interested observers will be Andy Roxburgh. coach (and manager) of the senior Scottish side. Having coached national youth teams prior to his asccndency to Scotland‘s soccer hot-seat. he is well qualified to comment. ‘Without doubt. the African sides are emergingonto the international scene. When I
attended the competition in ('anada.
I watched a group involving the Ivory ( ‘oast and they were phenomenal.
‘Although the Soviet Ifnion won the title. the next two teams were
from Africa. 'I’hey have great ability.
a natural talent. a mastery of the ball. What they lack is the
infrastructure. the domestic league system. to enable them to perform at the higher level. But in terms of sheer raw ability. it is frightening what they can do. Once they organise their administration so that the talent they have w ill be able to shine and mature. as it inevitably will. should the rest of the world tail to wake tip to that. then there will be trouble.
‘At the moment. I"II‘A are quite correct to limit the number of places available to African sides for the lttll World ('up because that is all about having the best countries taking part. But once the senior teams from Africa develop and start to progress to the later rounds of the World (‘up on a more regular basis. then I"II~‘A Will have to increase their allocation of places'.
(iiven these assumptions. perhaps ftill recognition is not that far in the future. to take Zimbabwe as an example. the enthusiasm towards
1 football almost beggars belief.
Recently. their l()().t)t)()seater National Stadium was filled to capacity three times in the course of one month. and the extensive
support is easily reflected in terms of j participation with some Snor so
professional and semi-professional sides in the ZII’A league.
As for Scotland‘s chances. it might be useful to remember that whilst the full team always seem to find the latterstagesofinternational tournaments quite alien territory. our younger sides have not been so reluctant to acquaint themselves with success. Ari tinder-IS side (under Roxburgh’s management. as it happens) with players such as ('eltic's Paul .\IcStay and I Iearts’ (iary Mackay. won the l'IiFA Iiuropean Youth (‘hampionship in 1082 and went on. as an Ifnder-l‘) squad. to reach the quarter-finals of the World Youth ('up held in Mexico a year later.
Roxburgh. though. does not feel that Scotland’s own league system should undergo the reforms he feels are necessary for the African nations. ‘Scotland does well at youth level often because the players are young professionals who train and
develop an attitude like their elders.
Within a few years. other countries have caught tip. and it is sometimes the case that our talented youtigstcrs do not have the ability or mentality to make the step tip tosenior club football. And anyway. you hay e to remember that Scotland. with a population ofS million or so. does remarkably well in the international arena. By rights. Scotland should not be up there competing with Italy. I’rance and West (iermany if you compare their respective populations; btit we do. and consistently.‘
It all sounds like a potentially heavy i‘espoiisibilty for a group of Scottiin youngsters to bear. but spare a thought for the visitors. Ifthe enthusiasm within Nigeria resembles that which was shown towards them during the last two competitions. then a iumbo iet will be dispatched to Scotland perhaps bearing their President: and there is the promise that should the Saudis reach the final. then their king will be there to roar them on.
(A full list of fixtures can be found in the Sports Listings)