MLSsoccer.com's "Under African Skies" series is a look at what the first World Cup held on the African continent means to Major League Soccer's African players. We continue with the Houston Dynamo's Dominic Oduro, Sammy Appiah and Joseph Ngwenya.
HOUSTON — Since the moment FIFA announced that South Africa would host the 2010 World Cup, Africans from Cape Town to Dakar have embraced and taken pride in the moment. This is not going to be South Africa’s event alone; it belongs to the entire continent.
It even belongs to a trio Africans thousands of miles away from their homelands, here in heart of Texas. Houston Dynamo players Sammy Appiah and Dominic Oduro, natives of Ghana, and Joseph Ngwenya, who was born in Zimbabwe, are looking forward to the unique moment this summer when the entire continent will come together. They say there might not be another World Cup where an entire continent is behind the host nation like all of Africa is behind 2010.
“Let’s face it, no one thought the World Cup would ever go to Africa,” Oduro told MLSsoccer.com. “The entire African continent is excited. We’re pleased South Africa is hosting it. The whole of Africa, though, is really excited and we can’t wait for it to start.”
“We’ve been dying to host it,” Appiah said, “and I think we’ll make good use of it. It’s getting people to know more about Africa, its traditions, and cultures in Africa. It will broadcast what Africa is.”
The three African Dynamo players have similar stories. All three came to the United States to attend college. Ngwenya was a star for his high school in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, before enjoying an All-American career at Coastal Carolina. Oduro left Ghana to attend Virginia Commonwealth. Appiah, who developed in the Ajax Football Academy in Kumasi, Ghana, eventually played at Boston University before being drafted by the Dynamo in 2010.
Despite their limited time here, they are somewhat familiar with how the 1994 World Cup bolstered soccer in America. That’s something that Africa doesn’t need. As the biggest game on the continent already, soccer doesn’t need that much of a boost over there. But there are non-sporting impacts that supersede even the events on the field.
“Soccer doesn’t need to grow as it already is the number one sport,” said Ngwenya. “That being said, it is going to have a big economic impact on South Africa and obviously on surrounding areas as well. It will improve the standard of soccer in Africa but it will also have a big economic impact on South Africa.”
As for which team they will support, that’s an easy answer for Appiah and Oduro: Ghana qualified and are considered by many to be darkhorses to make a deep run. The Black Stars are one of the most successful national sides on the continent, winners of four Africa Cup of Nations titles. Winning the whole thing in South Africa is a stretch, but the Houston trio will all be cheering for any team from Africa to lift the trophy at the end.
“I’m rooting for Ghana and I hope Ghana advances and wins,” Oduro said. “It would be awesome if the cup stays in Africa. I hope all the African teams do well so the world knows Africa’s game is progressing.”
Dwain Capodice is a contributor to MLSsoccer.com. Questions or Comments can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.