Desailly wants World Cup legacy for continent

JOHANNESBURG - Former France international Marcel Desailly said on Friday that the lasting legacy of the first World Cup in Africa must be an improvement in football all over the continent, not just in South Africa.

In an interview with Reuters, he also said he hoped to take charge of a national team or a top club in the future, and thought they if they qualify for the finals, African champions Egypt and the Ivory Coast had the best chance of making an impact in next year's tournament.

Desailly, 40, who retired as a player three years ago after winning both the World Cup and the European Cup in a glittering career, said that African footbal had reached a turning point in its history with this month's Confederations Cup and next year's World Cup being staged in South Africa.

The Ghanaian-born player, who moved to France when he was four and played 116 times for his adopted homeland, said he was hopeful that football would continue to develop on the continent, but he was not aware yet of any major young talents coming through.

"The key to the future of African football is not the players we all know about now like Didier Drogba or Samuel Eto'o who have succeeded abroad, but how to improve the level of their own leagues by keeping their top young players in their own countries for longer." he said.

"It is going to be hard to change though. The best players will always go to Europe and it will be always be difficult to make them stay at home.

"But if the infrastructure was better, they could be persuaded to stay longer and not leave at such an early age.

"We are at a key moment in football for Africa and it is a chance that must not be allowed to slip. Maybe the legacy of the World Cup would be to change the thinking in Africa."

POOR START

He said that Ivory Coast and Egypt were likely to do well in next year's finals, as long as they qualified, but could not understand why Egypt had made such a poor start in their qualifying group with a draw and a defeat from their opening two matches.

"Look at the way Egypt have played here, they nearly drew with Brazil and they beat the world champions Italy, showing that technically and physically they can complete with the best teams.

"They remind me of Greece, who won the Euros in 2004. That was a team that worked together and we've seen Egypt do that here."

However, he was not so sure that South Africa could make the same impact despite being hosts.

"It is a different thing with Bafana Bafana, they are at a different level at the moment."

He also said that he had been studying tactics since retiring from playing and was thinking of applying for coaching positions in the future.

"Football can take you anywhere, to any country in the world and you have to be prepared to go for the jobs," he said.

"I don't want to say where I could go, but I would like to start with a top team in a top league like England or France, or a national team.

"But I know it is not easy, look at Alan Shearer for example, it is very tough. But I think I will be ready to go back into that crazy world again soon."

Desailly has been working as a television commentator and UNICEF ambassador since retiring. He is in South Africa as an ambassador for FIFA sponsor Castrol who organise the Player Index rating which analyzes footballers' playing performances.