Michael Pavitt ©ITG

A friend asked me to provide a sporting quiz question earlier this week. Naturally, I decided to make it as tricky as possible for the part-time sports fan.

"Which country currently has six of the top 10 men's squash players and three of the top 10 women's, including the women's world number one?"

We went around the houses for a good while. When their trawl through the major sporting nations of Europe came up empty, I figured it would be best to narrow down the field by telling them to guess the continent first.

"North America… Asia… South America… I doubt it is Oceania."

Eventually we arrived at Africa and I gave in, telling them the correct answer is in fact Egypt.

This led to a two-part response. Firstly, I was informed my quiz question was going nowhere near the quiz. Fair enough I suppose. Secondly, it began a debate about other sports which African nations have proved equally as dominant in.

Other than athletics, where Kenya and Ethiopia have been the long-standing forces in distance events, we struggled to think of another sporting example to top squash. In terms of the depth of talent in an African country, squash must surely come second to athletics.

It was something that surprised me at first when results from matches came in from the Professional Squash Association World Tour, where you are met with a steady stream of all-Egyptian ties. Clearly, I am not the only person to have looked at results and rankings, before uttering the word "Egypt?" with my eyebrows slowly raising sceptically.

Nour El Sherbini of Egypt is the women's world number one in squash ©Getty Images
Nour El Sherbini of Egypt is the women's world number one in squash ©Getty Images

The 11th suggested result on Google, when you type in "why is Egypt…", happens to be "why is Egypt so good at squash?" It comes in just below the fundamental questions: "why is Egypt called Egypt?" and "why is Egypt mostly desert?"

Frankly, if I were squash, I would be highlighting this point repeatedly when they next campaign to get into the Olympic Games. While one nation might be the dominant force, what would the Olympic world give to see more medals heading towards Africa? Particularly, given that Egypt have won one Olympic gold since 1948?

The sport's arrival on the Olympic programme might even lead to scenes in Cairo which would rival those beamed worldwide last week when their football team qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1990.

It is fair to say, though, that international federations have largely struggled to truly work out Africa. Not dissimilarly to most other international bodies, truth be told.

Whether it is helping them to bring through a generation of athletes from the continent to challenge at the top level, or giving African countries major sporting events, the continent has been a problem. Obviously, there are exceptions. Kenya and Ethiopia in athletics, while South Africa have managed a steady stream of talent in a wide variety of sports, mainly cricket and rugby.

However, South Africa itself has a relatively mixed record when it comes to hosting events. The 1995 Rugby World Cup was a triumph for the hosts off the pitch as much as on it. The 2010 FIFA World Cup, less so, where the hosts felt their hands were somewhat burned by the venues they were left burdened with.

It was something they had repeatedly claimed they had learned from when bidding for the 2022 Commonwealth Games with Durban. In some ways, you felt that was true. But, on the other hand, you sensed the bidding city were prepared to do the bare minimum to secure and host the Games. As it turned out, they did even less than the bare minimum and were stripped of the event.

Durban's ill-fated attempt to host the Commonwealth Games damaged South Africa's credibility ©Getty Images
Durban's ill-fated attempt to host the Commonwealth Games damaged South Africa's credibility ©Getty Images

South Africa's then Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula - the second greatest political tweeter after Donald Trump - claimed the country did not have the financing to go through with hosting when they were stripped of the right in April. However, the country then launched a bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup later that month.

While they might be awarded the rights by World Rugby, the Commonwealth Games fiasco did not exactly boost their reputation, or that of Africa, for hosting major sporting events. Rather than proving the credentials of South Africa, largely seen as the continent's most likely Olympic host, it seemed to push that prospect further into the future.

Another FIFA World Cup on African soil looks unlikely for the time being. If the joint North American bid for 2026 loses to Morocco it would be an even greater collapse than the United States men's team managed against Trinidad and Tobago, when they failed to qualify for the World Cup.

With South America and Europe looking likely to go head-to-head for 2030, possibly with China involved as well, a 2034 World Cup might be Africa's next chance at hosting the tournament.

Certainly, the continent has not been aided by inadequacies in its own organisations. Rows threatened the 2015 All-Africa Games and signs are there that a repeat could happen in the build-up to 2019. Last month, Kenya pulled out of hosting the African Nations Championship football tournament, just four months before it began. Morocco hastily filled the void.

Neither situation has added confidence to African nations being awarded sport's major global events. Thankfully, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Cross Country Championships in Kampala in Uganda in March and the IAAF World Under-18 Athletics Championships in Kenyan capital Nairobi have provided some optimism.

Hamad Malboum Kalkaba, the President of the Confederation of African Athletics, asserted earlier this week that the 2023 World Athletics Championships could be too early for his continent. He did, however, suggest that Algeria, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa all had the potential to stage the Championships in 2025.

Vast crowds at the Under-18 World Athletics Championships have prompted suggestions Kenya could host the senior event ©Getty Images
Vast crowds at the Under-18 World Athletics Championships have prompted suggestions Kenya could host the senior event ©Getty Images

There would be enthusiasm from many to see this come to pass, particularly given that crowds of 60,000 were reported on the final two days of the Under-18 Championships in Nairobi. One suspects we will be lucky to get close to half that for their Senior World Championships in Qatar's capital Doha in two years time.

It would be a strong and positive move if the IAAF were to take the Championships to Africa. While many are still sceptical about taking Championships to the continent, content to say that nations should prove themselves with smaller events first, I think most International Federations would quite like to take their major competitions there.

Whether that it is to take the sport to a new market, develop a potential generation of athletes to take up your sport or even fulfil pledges which helped you get elected, it would be a big tick in the box for any governing body President.

The ambition is there, from the IAAF to the International Cycling Union, whose new chief David Lappartinent vowed to organise the first Road Cycling World Championships in Africa as part of his manifesto.

From a federation's perspective, there would be large kudos given to a body who can regularly take their Championships to Africa and help the continent prove its hosting abilities. Which does beg the question why modern pentathlon were not shouting from the rooftops when their World Championships took place in Cairo earlier this year? This is especially true given they are a sport whose very place on the Olympic programme would appear under threat, in many people's eyes.

Alas. It feels appropriate to conclude with another quiz question. Which country hosted and won the 1949 EuroBasket?

Yes, it is Egypt again.