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Last Updated: Friday, 18 January 2008, 12:06 GMT
Desailly on Africa Cup of Nations
Marcel Desailly
By Marcel Desailly
Former Chelsea and AC Milan star

Football means very different things to players in Africa compared to those in Europe.

I was born in Ghana but moved to France at an early age and won the World Cup in 1998 and Euro 2000 with my adopted country.

If I was starting my career now and someone asked me whether I would choose Ghana over France I do not think I would be able to give them an answer.

Ghana supporters are excited by the tournament being played in their country
Football gives the African people hope, a true motivation for their life

Marcel Desailly

It is a very personal question. It demands an analysis of how strong your cultural connection is with your original country and on a player's personal desire.

In a European team you go more for performance and trophies. The attitude and objective for an African player is quite different when he is representing his nation.

Playing for an African team, you are there for your people. You do the best that you can and hope that through your performance you make the people of your country feel special.

When you look at the Ivory Coast, with all its internal problems, you can see how football gives the people hope, a true motivation for their life.

In Europe football is a business, it is about the media and a bit more professional. In Africa it is about colour, dance and craziness.

That said there is a big responsibility on Ghana to prove that they can organise a major tournament. They have had to work on infrastructure to cope with the media demands and the amount of people who will come to watch.


I am a Unicef special ambassador to Ghana and I believe the tournament can leave a very important legacy for the host nation.

We can use the media to reach people in the villages with regard to their education and health. I have the chance to be on the ground helping people and I love that.

As for Ghana's Black Stars - they must be able to deal with the pressure that is on them, harness the desire and the craziness and use it to help them perform.

I don't expect many surprises but I think Angola have some good players and, with the World Cup in South Africa in 2010, I would like to see Bafana Bafana have a good tournament.

When the World Cup takes place in two years it will be the first time it has been hosted in Africa.

Marcel Desailly
Working for Unicef is something that I love because I have the chance to help people

There are hopes that a team from Africa will win it but I think it is important for people to be patient as I do not believe an African team is ready. Brazil in 2014 is a more realistic target.

If we are to see an African nation win the World Cup I believe there has to be more investment from government and private individuals to help young people express themselves through football.

So many players leave their home countries to gain experience but I think many do so too early. This has an effect on the domestic leagues in Africa, which are not very strong.

But when it comes to the winners of this year's Nations Cup everyone has the same name - Ivory Coast.

They have a top striker in Didier Drogba but also have good defenders and midfielders. They are the most complete team and the most European in the way they play.

  • Marcel Desailly was speaking to Paul Fletcher and will be reporting for BBC Sport in Ghana.

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