We’ve had Sammy Kuffor of Ghana here who was a big success, said Bayern Munich legend Giovane Elber, right. Photo: Bernd Weissbrod/EPA

MUNICH – Bayern Munich legend Giovane Elber argues that a lack of discipline and failing to immerse themselves into the German culture is the reason so few Africans have had lasting careers with the Bavarian giants.

Ghanaian defender Sammy Kuffor flew the continent’s flag at Bayern for more than a decade - famously crying his lungs out after they lost the 1999 Uefa Champions League final at the death but then went on to win it two years later.

“We’ve had Sammy Kuffor of Ghana here who was a big success,” Elber said. “But just like any player he found it hard to come into this team at first because of how high the demands are. What Sammy did well was learn the language and the culture to be completely part of the team. He had a strong mentality which made him succeed here.” 

“The problem with Africans and South American players is discipline. There’s a lot that you need to deal with here when you are a foreign player and it’s hard. If you don’t have the right attitude, you will not make it. Sammy had the will to win and was always focused on getting the job done.”

“He constantly worked on his game. He was an aggressive player who hated losing and we had to calm him down in certain situations. You can imagine how heated he must have been that a Brazilian like myself was telling someone on the field to calm down.”

Elber watched Cameroon-born Franck Evina shine for Bayern on Saturday in the 4-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt at the Allianz Arena.

Evina was part of a B-team that Bayern fielded with one eye on Tuesday’s second leg Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Bayern trail Madrid 2-1 from the first leg but Elber is confident that they will leave Madrid victorious and advance to the final.

“Bayern Munich had a number of good chances against Madrid in the first leg but they didn’t take those chances,” Elber said. “If you don’t take your chances in football, and you are playing against a team like Real Madrid, you will be punished. But I believe they stand a good chance to win in Madrid and go to the final.” 

“Unfortunately last year they lost to Madrid in extra time (in the quarterfinals). But this year the team seems to be strong and gelling well as a unit. The key will be to put Madrid under pressure from the get go and take the chances that they create because they will get a few chances. They must finish better than they did here at the Allianz Arena in the first leg.”

Giovane Elber in action for Bayern Munich in 2006.Photo: Alexandra Beier/Reuters
Brazilian Giovane Elber in action for Bayern Munich in 2006. Photo: Alexandra Beier/Reuters

Bayern have struggled to take their dominance from the Bundesliga to the Champions League. The Bavarians were last European champions in 2013. They have won the Bundesliga every year since then.

“Off course they are very good in the Bundesliga and they dominate it,” Elber said. “But they haven’t done that regularly on the international scene. There, things are more difficult because there are a number of good teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus.” 

“But still they are in the semifinal and that’s not a small feat. I am confident that they will reach the final. You can’t expect to win the Champions League every year.”

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Njabulo Ngidi is in Germany courtesy of StarSat