In an award ceremony for Lifetime Achievement, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has urged African football authorities to organise themselves more professionally so that teams from the continent can challenge for global titles.
Wenger made the remarks after receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Laureus World Sports Awards on Monday night for his contributions to revolutionising English football.
When he was appointed Arsenal manager in 1996‚ diet and modern training regimes that are taken for granted today‚ were non-existent.
Wenger‚ 69‚ oversaw the design of a modern training centre at the club and the move from Highbury to the modern Emirates Stadium in North London.
Under Wenger, Arsenal won three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups.
“France won the 2018 World Cup with some African players who have been educated in France‚ but they still come from Africa‚” Wenger said. “That should encourage Africa to organise its football.
“There is so much talent and the guys playing for France came from Africa because their parents took them to France.
“It shows that the talent and potential exist in Africa. But one person cannot change Africa‚ the whole system has to be better organised. A successful national team starts with a strong youth system and organisation.
“I could not do that now. I do not have enough time in front [of] me. I can help to get them en route but you need 10 or 20 years to do that.”
One surprising aspect of Wenger’s award was that archrival Jose Mourinho praised the former Arsenal manager in a recorded message played at the glitzy ceremony.
The two were fierce rivals during Mourinho’s time as Chelsea manager and they never had a kind word to say publicly.
“There were some episodes along the road‚” Mourinho said.
“I can only speak by myself. I really enjoyed the competition. But the real respect is always there. He made lots of history in that football club and is one of the best managers in the history of football.”
Wenger admitted to being surprised by Mourinho’s comments‚ which appear to have ended a feud that has lasted 15 years.
“It was a surprise yes‚ because we had some good fights but I was also surprised I got this award‚” Wenger said. “It is usually for people like Pele‚ Maradona and Beckenbauer‚ not for a coach from a small village.
“But I represent coaches and in some way it is good that coaches are rewarded in our game.” (Business Day)