With the global focus on South Africa, former United Nations secretary-general, and Chair of the Africa Progress Panel, Kofi Annan has teamed up with Côte d'Ivoire striker Didier Drogba to produce a thought-provoking alternative guide to the FIFA World Cup™, 'Scoring for Africa', looking beyond each country's football prospects to how they compare on bigger issues such as life expectancy and carbon emissions. Here Mr Annan tells FIFA.com of the significance of the guide – and explains why this month's football showpiece can leave a legacy for Africa, describing it as "a tremendous opportunity for the continent as a whole".
‘Scoring for Africa: The Alternative Guide to the World Cup’ can be viewed by clicking on the link to the right.
FIFA.com: The Africa Progress Panel has published 'Scoring for Africa – An Alternative Guide to the World Cup'. What is its purpose?
Kofi Annan: The whole idea was to introduce a development perspective, highlighting some of the issues which unite and divide countries represented on the field. We teamed up with Didier Drogba, the African Player of the Year who is also a UN goodwill ambassador, on this initiative. The guide provides economic, social and political rankings of the competing countries and has a simple but powerful message. What we are basically saying is that players and fans all understand the importance of fair play and an impartial referee, and by extension we are saying we believe this understanding should not only be limited to the way countries play, run and score against each other but also the way they do business and politics.
As an African, what does it mean to see Africa hosting the FIFA World Cup?
It is wonderful and in some way shows how far the continent has come. You may recall that 50 years ago this year, 17 African countries became independent. They are celebrating their golden anniversary so for it to coincide with the World Cup organised on the African continent for the first time is really a source of pride.
Can the FIFA World Cup leave a legacy in South Africa and even across the entire continent?
The Cup really puts the spotlight on South Africa, which has a chance to shine. I believe it is also a tremendous opportunity for the continent as a whole to show how it has changed for the better and has some positive things to show. Obviously South Africa has really built up a credible infrastructure which will be used for the future. But I think other African countries will gain from the exposure and I hope in time it will help them with tourism and economic and social development.
Have you discussed the significance of this African FIFA World Cup with the FIFA President, Joseph S. Blatter?
I know that Sepp Blatter shares my view that the World Cup being organised in Africa will be a great opportunity to expand economic, social and even political co-operation on the continent. It will also enhance sporting facilities for young people, with pitches being set up for them. I hope this will continue long afterwards and also help them pick up some of the lessons one learns from games – play according to the rules and accept fair play.
You once said that the FIFA World Cup had a greater reach than the UN – what did you mean?
The point I made is that FIFA as an organisation appears much more universal. The UN has 192 member states, FIFA has 209. And once every four years FIFA manages to get the whole globe's attention. People follow the game fanatically and they know where their team stands. I wish I could get the same concentration elsewhere – I would get governments to compete on human rights, on democracy, on the fight against corruption and for everyone to know how their countries are doing in these areas. By producing 'Scoring for Africa' we are trying to get people to focus beyond the ball on the other issues.
Some people argue the money spent by South Africa on the FIFA World Cup could have been better spent elsewhere. How do you view this argument?
The benefits and the spirit of the World Cup should not be reduced to financial calculations. If we are to measure the financial benefits, many could take some time to become evident. I've talked about the benefits for South Africa and the continent in terms of infrastructure. We are a continent that has a serious infrastructure deficit. If we had our roads, rails and energy properly organised, Africa would be doing much, much better in trade, not only with ourselves but with the rest of the world. So I think this is a worthwhile investment. I know there are people in South Africa who are not sure how this will benefit them but if it helps them increase trade and they are able to come together and get to know the other African nations better and co-operate better, it will be worthwhile. When people ask this question it is a bit like saying, 'what would one rugby game make?'. But we saw the difference a rugby game made for South Africa, bringing the whole nation together – I think on that day they all felt they were indeed a 'Rainbow nation' and I think this is going to be the same for the continent.
Are you a football fan yourself?
Yes, I am a football fan. I love the game and I played it as a young man up to and through my university years. I played on the right wing because I was a sprinter. But now I only sit in the armchair and follow it. I will be going to the Final, hopefully to see an African team play in it.
What are your hopes for your own country, Ghana?
We have a good team but a rather young one. Some of the experienced players are not going to be able to play because of injuries but this is a young team, they have a strong heart and determination and I would not rule them out. I will be rooting for them.
Do you have any predictions about the FIFA World Cup?
Several of the African teams should do well – maybe I am a dreamer but I would love to see one of them in the Final. But there are other strong sides like Italy, Spain, the Brazilians, the Argentinians. England will also have their hopes but I would not be so bold as to predict who will win the Cup.
Finally how important are top footballers as role models?
They have quite an impact on the young and obviously they are constantly in the limelight and the way they comport themselves, the way they respect the rules, their team-mates and opponents all sends a message to the young ones. Soccer is a wonderful game. It is a team game, it allows room for individual brilliance but the individual must never think he or she is bigger than the team and that is a lesson for life.