Archive for the 'Africa' Category

Dec 08 2013

Profile Image of Vinay Kumar

Que ferons-nous avec les stades après la Coupe de Monde?

Le post de Becca sur les stades au Brésil me fait rappeler du mon voyage à l’Afrique du Sud et du grand problème dont les grands stades de la Coupe de Monde posent aux pays organisateurs : que ferons-nous avec les stades après la Coupe de Monde ?

Dans l’été de 2011, j’ai habité à Durban, Afrique du Sud pendant trois mois avec DukeEngage (un programme sponsorisé par l’université). A Durban, j’ai travaillé avec des organisations non-gouvernementales qui aident des jeunes dans un quartier qui s’appelle Wentworth. Pendant la période que j’étais à Durban, j’ai appris beaucoup de la culture sportive et l’histoire du rugby et du football. J’ai parlé avec des jeunes et j’ai vu le contrecoup persistant du apartheid avec les populations qui jouent chaque sport. Selon les jeunes à Durban, le football reste comme le sport préféré par les Sud-Africains noirs et Sud-Africains de couleurs tant que les Sud-Africains blancs aiment le rugby. Néanmoins, tout le monde joue les deux sports dans une certaine mesure. Nous avons aidé à un camp d’entrainement gratuit pour le football à Durban et j’ai pu voir l’amour pour le football.

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Le moment de mon voyage était très intéressant en particulier parce que c’était l’été après la Coupe de Monde- la première Coupe de Monde en Afrique ! Il était évident pendant notre voyage que l’économie et les gens d’Afrique du Sud souffraient des effets secondaires (« une guele de bois ») de la Coupe de Monde. Nous sommes allés au grand stade à Durban, Moses Mabhida. Le stade était vraiment incroyable avec un grand arc et une capacité de 62,760 places. Moses Mabhida a coûté $450 million et reste comme une attraction touristique après la Coupe de Monde. Nous avons marché sur le terrain et c’était vraiment un spectacle. De plus, nous avons pris le funiculaire au sommet du stade pour une vue sensationnelle.

  

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Cependant, je n’ai pas compris comment le stade resterait ouvert parce qu’il n’a pas été utilisé souvent pour des événements après la Coupe de Monde (sauf le cricket). J’ai demandé aux habitants si Moses Mabhida est un avantage pour la communauté après la Coupe de Monde et s’il a crée du travail. Leurs réponses ne m’ont pas surpris parce qu’ils ont dit que le gouvernement a dépensé trop pour le stade et qu’il aurait pu avoir utilisé cet argent pour les programmes sociaux. En outre, Moses Mabhida n’est pas viable financièrement et il y a un déclin des touristes.

Nous pouvons apprendre de l’exemple de Moses Mabhida et les épreuves que le stade a fait face. J’espère que le gouvernement brésilien pense à long-terme avec ses stades et comment il peut les utiliser pour enrichir le pays.[1]


[1] J’ai pris toutes les photos dans ce post

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Nov 17 2013

Profile Image of Matthew Schorr

Deux Perceptions en concurrence de l’immigration en France

J’ai bien apprécié l’autobiographie de Lilian Thuram que les étudiants francophones ont lu la semaine dernière, et je veux ici élaborer sur mon commentaire du 7 novembre. L’autobiographie est un texte d’espoir, un texte qui démontre la possibilité illimitée qui existe en France. Sans doute, Thuram reconnaît qu’il existe certains problèmes et tensions qui tourmentent la banlieue. Toutefois, Thuram conclut que la banlieue est surtout un endroit positif qui est caractérisé par une richesse culturelle, linguistique, et ethnique. C’est très intéressant de contraster cette expérience de Thuram avec celle de Salie, la protagoniste de Le Ventre de l’Atlantique, un livre de Fatou Diome que la section francophone a lu il y a quelques semaines.

8 juillet 1998, l'autobiographie de Lilian Thuram.

8 juillet 1998, l’autobiographie de Lilian Thuram.

Lilian Thuram immigre en France avec sa mère et sa fratrie. Il identifie un manque de compréhension entre des groupes ethniques dans la banlieue qui résulte d’un manque d’espaces communs. Il lamente aussi le fait que les résidents perçoivent souvent une « frontière invisible » (37) entre leurs quartiers et les autres quartiers de la société, qui contribue à une division artificielle qui crée de la suspicion mutuelle. Thuram remarque que les tensions sont accentuées parce que beaucoup de Français qui habitent hors de la banlieue ont des préjugés contre les banlieusards ; ils supposent que les banlieusards sont obligatoirement pauvres et violents. Les tensions déstabilisent la société en créant une méfiance mutuelle alimentée par le racisme et la xénophobie.

Toutefois, malgré tout ces problèmes de la banlieue, Thuram suggère que la vie dans la banlieue est surtout un expérience riche. Comme enfant, Thuram appréciait beaucoup la diversité de son quartier à Fougères, qu’il appel un “kaléidoscope ethnique” (35). Thuram se souvient le multiculturalisme de ses amis enfantins, et son intérêt pour leurs cultures, leurs langues, et leurs patries. Les matches de foot permettaient aux amis de Thuram de développer des relations respectueuses, sans égard pour la race, le statut socio-économique, ou le pays d’origine.

Diome peint une image opposée de la banlieue. Le personnage principal de sa livre, Salie, immigre en France du Sénégal pour essayer de gagner de l’argent pour améliorer sa vie et celle de sa famille. Nombreux Sénégalais croient que « Chaque miette de vie doit server à conquérir la dignité » (30), et ils pensent souvent que la vie en France est glamoureuse et que c’est assez facile d’y gagner une fortune. Les garçons sénégalais sont particulièrement éblouis par la France, et ils perçoivent le football d’être un raccourci à la richesse. Toutefois, la vie de Salie n’est pas la vie de star, et la France n’est pas un paradis pour des immigrés. A cause de sa pauvreté, son statut comme immigré, et son ethnicité, Salie trouve que sa vie en France est dure. Elle regrette que « En Europe…vous êtes d’abords noirs, accessoirement citoyens, définitivement étrangers, et ça, ce n’est pas écrit dans la Constitution, mais certains le lisent sur votre peau » (176). Par conséquent, Salie cherche à dissuader son frère de venir en France. Diome suggère que c’est possible d’avoir une vie épanouissante au Sénégal et que ce chemin est préférable à l’émigration.

Le Ventre de l'Atlantique, un roman de Fatou Diome.

Le Ventre de l’Atlantique, un roman de Fatou Diome.

L’incompatibilité des deux perceptions de l’immigration est frappante. C’est évident que Thuram et Diome ont des rapports très différents avec la France et que la France la signification de la France n’est pas le même pour tout le monde. L’immigration et la banlieue, la destination de beaucoup d’immigrés, sont complexes. Thuram identifie des vrais avantages de la vie dans la banlieue malgré tous les problèmes qui y existent. En même temps, il faut reconnaître que Thuram a atteindre plus de richesse et célébrité que la grande majorité d’immigrés. Par conséquent, sa perception de la possibilité qui existe dans la banlieue n’est pas nécessairement comparable à celle de beaucoup d’autres immigrés, come Salie. Malgré des rêves des garçons sénégalais d’être comme Thuram, son niveau de réussite est extrêmement difficile à atteindre.

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Oct 28 2013

Profile Image of Jordan Cirocco

UEFA President Calls for World Cup Expansion to Forty-Team Format

Responding to Fifa President Sepp Bladder’s recent call to expand the number of African and Asian berths to the World Cup at the expense of European and South American nations, UEFA President Michel Platini believes that the tournament should be expanded to a forty team format. This expansion to forty teams would allow for the number of African and Asian representatives in the tournament to increase without reducing the number of European and South American representatives.

Blatter believes that European and South American nations hold an unfair advantage in dominating the make-up of the tournament, despite the having fewer members associations of FIFA than other territories. Pushing towards globalization of the sport, Blatter would like to see the numbers of berths of a territory be more reflective of the number of  FIFA member associations [1]. With only 63 member associations of FIFA, European and South American teams will account for 18 or 19 berths at the 2014 World Cup. Africa and Asia, on the other hand, will only be represented by 9 or 10 teams in total, despite accounting for 100 members associations of FIFA. Blatter believes that, “This flawed state of affairs must be rectified. At the end of the day an equal chance for all is the paramount imperative of elite sport.”

UEFA President Michel Platini, who many believe will be the successor to Bladder as FIFA President, feels that expansion of African and Asian berths should not come at the expense of European and South American nations. Instead, the tournament should be expanded to a forty-team format, with eight groups, each consisting of five teams [2]. He calculates that the length of the tournament would be expanded by only three days with this format. While this would add more berths for under-represented territories, this idea could significantly lower the quality of competition by adding berths to territories whose nations do not have teams of similar quality to that of Europe and South America.

As explained by the Nick Ackerman of Bleacher Report, “Although one of FIFA’s more commendable ideas, both Blatter and Platini have to consider the competitiveness of adding eight teams to the current setup.” With the last World Cup taking place in South Africa, only one of the six African teams in the competition was able to advance past the group stages [4]. This success rate is much lower than for the European (6 of 13) and South American (5 of 5) representatives. Additionally, with European and South American nations dominating the top 12 spots in the current FIFA rankings, it can be argued that these territories deserve the most representatives based on merit [5].

While I believe that Africa and Asia deserve more representatives in the World Cup, I do not agree that it should come at the expense of European and South American nations. I feel that this change could significantly lower the quality of competition in the tournament. I would be much more in favor of expansion, even if this resulted in the inclusion of lower quality teams in the tournament. I believe this format could result in qualification by nations who have fallen short of qualification due to the current format. With a more realistic opportunity for qualification, I believe that these nations will strive to produce a higher quality team that is able to compete on the World Stage. However, until the quality of teams in territories such as Africa and Asia matches those of Europe and South America, it is hard to argue for the number of berths per territory to better represent the proportion of member associations within FIFA.
References

[1] http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/25/us-soccer-world-blatter-idUSBRE99O0Z820131025

[2] http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/10/28/uk-soccer-world-platini-idUKBRE99R02T20131028

[3] http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1827509-michel-platini-calls-for-world-cup-to-be-expanded-to-40-teams

[4] http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/archive/southafrica2010/matches/

[5] http://www.fifa.com/worldranking/rankingtable/

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Oct 17 2013

Profile Image of Lindsey Barrett

Bob Bradley

We spoke briefly about Bob Bradley today, and I wanted to share this clip of him being interviewed by John Oliver on The Daily Show over the summer.  It does a good job of illuminating both the themes we’ve discussed in class (soccer as a vehicle of political mobilization, the universality of the sport, etc) and precisely why Bob Barker is as fascinating a figure as he is.

 

http://http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-july-25-2013/exclusive—bob-bradley-extended-interview-pt–1

http://http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-july-25-2013/exclusive—bob-bradley-extended-interview-pt–2

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Oct 03 2013

Profile Image of Becca Fisher

Est-ce que le foot est vraiment quel que chose qui unifie?

9782253109075-GMadické est le jeune demi-frère du narrateur, Salie. Tout au long du livre, il est obsédé par le football et le joueur Maldini qui joue pour l’équipe d’Italie. Il pense constamment à la vie en Europe, plus précisément en France, à cause de Salie. Il croit fermement à «l’herbe est toujours plus verte de l’autre côté.» Il pense que la vie de Salie en France est si parfaite, même si elle essaie de lui expliquer autrement. Elle est dans une position très difficile parce qu’elle est née au Sénégal, comme Madické, mais vit en France. C’est le ventre de l’Atlantique qui les sépare. Elle pense que la France est oppressive, misérable et solitaire, tandis que Madické et les autres villageois pensent que la France est un paradis. Salie est enracinée partout et à la fois exilée tout le temps. D’autre part, Madické est enraciné au Sénégal avec toute sa famille, l’amour et le soutien.

Madické représente les étrangers qui idolâtrent France. Malgré tous ses défauts expliqués par Salie, il refuse d’admettre les imperfections de la France. A la fin du livre, comme Madické mûri, Salie lui envoie de l’argent pour démarrer une boutique. Il se rend compte que son rêve de jouer au foot était enfantin et il devient satisfait avec sa réalité. Même si il décide de rester au Sénégal, il reconnaît les différences de cultures et peut-être leurs implications.

Cette relation entre Salie et Madické met en perspective beaucoup de choses. Il démontre l’exception culturelle qui existe en France et le rôle qu’elle joue en ce qui concerne le problème de l’intégration. En France, tout le monde semble être heureux avec la façon dont ils vivent. En tant qu’étranger, il est difficile de ne pas seulement comprendre ces différences de culture, mais aussi devenir une partie d’une nouvelle. Je pense que cette “exception culturelle” est l’une des choses qui rend l’immigration en France si difficile pour Salie. Si elle avait immigré dans un pays dont la culture était plus similaire au Sénégal, il aurait été plus facile. Cela représente aussi la difficulté de l’intégration en général. Même si cette histoire est particulière à la France, elle peut être généralisée à immigrer n’importe où. Les différences de «langue», la religion et l’éducation posent des difficultés d’assimilation.

Comme nous avons parlé en classe, le foot est souvent considéré comme un rassembleur entre les différentes cultures et les immigrants. Il offre un langage commun et l’intérêt mutuel. Les règles sont assez régulières et le jeu n’a pas besoin de beaucoup de ressources. Mais, le foot est un peu préjudiciable à la relation entre Salie et Madické. Salie essaie très fort de rester en contact avec sa famille parce qu’elle se sent isolée et triste en France. Quand elle appelle pour parler avec Madické sur la vie au Sénégal, il veut seulement des mises à jour sur les derniers matchs et joueurs. Très tôt dans le livre, il devient clair que la différence et la distance entre les cultures provoque le foot d’être une grande source de tension entre Salie et Madické. C’est un sujet difficile à analyser car nous ne sommes dans aucun de leurs positions. Les deux, Salie et Madické, sont justifiées dans leur intérêt, mais malheureusement ils ne sont pas dans le même page. Peut-être que ce n’est pas le jeu de foot lui-même qui crée la distance et la tension entre les deux personnages, mais le foot souligne leurs différences de caractère et est donc considérer d’une façon négative. Mais à la fin du roman Madické est capable de se rendre compte que peut-être son obsession était injuste et un peu ridicule. Le jeu de foot est fascinant et c’est intéressant de voir comment il est capable d’affecter tant de gens de différentes façons. Cela aurait pu être n’importe quel autre sport ou un hobby que Madické et Salie n’étaient pas d’accord, mais dans ce cas il était de foot (dont je suis sûr, n’était pas une coïncidence). Comme nous l’avons expliqué en classe et dans African Soccerscapes, l’Afrique continue de se tourner vers la France et l’Europe comme les fondateurs et les idoles de ce sport. Ce livre est capable de démontrer ça à l’aide de Madické, qui représente le Sénégal, et Salie, représenter la France. Cependant, Diome est également en mesure d’intégrer les effets positifs et négatifs de cela aussi.

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Sep 17 2013

Profile Image of Basil Seif

The Resurrection of the Pharaohs

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According to the US State Department, there are 194 countries in the world. FIFA, as an international organization, acknowledges even more countries than the US, honoring 209 different nations and peoples the distinct privilege of having their own national team to support and cherish. Of those 209 national teams, only 32 teams qualify for the World Cup every four years. In Asia, 43 teams started the qualification process; in Africa, 40 teams; in North America, 35 teams; in South America, 9 teams; in Oceania, 11 teams; and in Europe 53 teams. That is 191 teams, 191 nations, who have been vying for qualification over the past three years. As of today, January 17, 2013, 266 days until the start of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, there are 10 teams that have already qualified, leaving 50 other teams vying for the last 22 spots.

 

Now that we are done with all of the boring numbers, let’s get down to it: of all of these 191 teams, there is only one team in the entire world that has won every single one of its qualifying matches. No draws, no losses, all victories. Care to take a guess? Messi and Argentina? Ronaldo and Portugal? What about Xavi, Iniesta, and the rest of the Spanish national team?

 

Wrong. Wrong. And Wrong.

 

The correct answer would be Egypt.

 

Weird, right?

 

The only team in the world that has won every single one of its qualifiers belongs to the tumultuous, chaotic, riot-crazy land of the Pharaohs.

 

Sadly, when most people think of Egypt and soccer, they don’t think of a team on the brink of qualification or a young group of talented players, led by their fearless, new American manager.

 

Instead, people think of the Port Said Massacre, a post-match riot that saw 79 people die and over 1,000 more sustain serious injuries. They recall the violent overthrowing of Hosni Mubarak in 2011. They remember the recent uprising against Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood supporters, just a few months ago.

 

 

It goes without saying that Egypt has not been the best place to live, let alone the best place to be an international athlete, in the past few years.

 

Nevertheless, throughout this violence, this rioting and killing and oppression, the Egyptian national team has been sliding by, under the radar, serving as a symbol of hope for this beleaguered country. Behind their fearless American coach, Bob Bradley, who, instead of shying away from the challenges that Egypt faces, not only as a national team, but also as a country, has very boldly emerged as a true leader, and somewhat of a hero, in Egypt.

 

Since the overthrowing of Mubarak, not only did the Egyptian football league decrease somewhat in stature, but it also was forced to cancel league play after the Port Said Massacre. This has made things very hard for the Egyptian national team and Bob Bradley, as far as keeping players in shape, evaluating young players, and finding some of the potential new young stars in Egyptian football. In the two years between winning the African Cup of Nations in 2010 and not even qualifying for the African Cup in 2012, Egypt dropped 55 places in the FIFA international standings, from 9th place in the world to 64th. Just like that.

 

By bringing much needed energy, hands-on training, and a sense of accountability to this Egyptian national team, a team historically rich with football talent, Bob Bradley, the former United States national team manager, has guided his new Egyptian squad back into relevancy, his new adopted country back onto the international sporting map.

 

Playing most of their home qualifiers in an empty stadium in the beach town of El-Gouna, while also in the midst of an overthrow of the Morsi regime, the Egyptian national team nonetheless managed to go to undefeated in their qualifying group, winning all 6 games, home and away, against Zimbabwe, Guinea, and Mozambique, with a goal differential of +9.

 

The team’s success is in large part due to the inspired play of 21 year old Basel FC striker, Mohamed Salah. Salah, one of the young rising stars of European football, who heard offers from a plethora of major European clubs over the summer, is currently the leading scorer in African qualifying, with a whopping six goals in six games. “We have been playing in difficult circumstances since the start of the qualifiers because of the football stoppage in Egypt and the problems facing the country,” said Salah about the trials of qualification. “But the most important thing will be to have luck on our side and think about the people who are eager for happiness. A qualification for the World Cup is the biggest thing that could make the people happy.”

 

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Despite being selected earlier this week to play perennial African powerhouse, Ghana, in the final, two-leg matchup of qualifying, Bob Bradley, along with the rest of Egypt, still seems optimistic and eager to make it to their third World Cup appearance, their first since 1990: “We are the strongest team in the group. We are not afraid of confronting Ghana.”

 

After missing out on the World Cup in dramatic fashion in 2010, enduring a coaching change, and living in the midst of multiple political uprisings, a massacre, and a stoppage of Egyptian league play, the Egyptian people and the Egyptian players are ready to redeem their country, unite the people of their trifling nation, and prove to the world that the Pharaohs belong in the World Cup.

 

 

 

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Feb 05 2013

Profile Image of Laurent Dubois

A Moth for Mali

The Western-most tip of Africa seemed like as good a place as any to watch the Mali vs. South Africa quarter-final in the African Cup of Nations. On Saturday, I was at the Pointe des Almadies in Dakar, a tourist stop and hang-out with a beach carpeted with black stones and hand-holding couples. On offer there were grilled fish, birds, paintings made of butterfly wings, ham and cheese crepes and beer, Bob Marley renditions — and a tiny television tuned to the match. We stood packed behind a bar watching. Everyone, as usual, was both coach and expert tactician. “Mali is leaving way too much space for the South Africans – they are fast!” “Why can’t they hold the ball?” “Only Keita is worth anything.” Some went on offence: about the South African coach Gordon Igesund: “That white man needs to calm down! He’s going to be more tired than his players!”

“Who are you rooting for?” a man turned and asked me suddenly. “Mali!” “With everything that’s happening there they need it,” he tells me. “They’re our neighbors,” another adds. We all turn back to the screen in time to see South Africa slip through the saggy Mali defense and score. Generalized hissing. “They’re going to get crushed. Crushed,” a man declares. For a while I think he’s right. But then: Keita, angling his header down for the bounce just enough to pass over the falling goalie. Stabilizing the boat.

I was in Dakar at the CODESRIA conference Afrika’Nko. Mali was on everyone’s mind. The conference was originally to take place in Bamako, but moved to Dakar because of the conflict there. Much of one afternoon was consumed by a heated debate about a statement condemning the recent burning of ancient manuscripts in Timbuktu. The signs of the intervention were visible in city, too. Wandering through the crowded center of town, I fell in behind a group of uniformed French soldiers winding their way along the street. From the sidewalk a man said to them: “Vive la France!” The soldiers looked back a little cautiously, not totally sure whether the statement was sarcastic or not. But the man seemed quite sincere, and the soldiers nodded.

During the Cup of Nations games, life in Dakar didn’t exactly stop. But it did proceed to a single soundtrack. On the upper floors of a cloth market and factory, the shops each had a small TV turned to the games. I sat in one for a while where, fed up with the French language commentary from the TV, a young man muted the volume and then cranked up the radio commentary from Dakar. In rooms nearby where men worked at sewing machines, the radio blasted the game, and there was enough time for them to dash over to a TV to see replays if something big happened. On the street, a man wandered out into an intersection, slightly oblivious, holding his phone to his head – listening to the streaming radio of the match. And each of Dakar’s often beat-up yellow taxis that drove by had the same soundtrack.

When much of a city and much of a continent is watching something, you can almost feel the collective shifting of moods. There was that moment of seeping dread, late in the second-half game of Mali vs. South Africa with the score skill locked 1-1, when everyone realized that overtime was coming, and after that, most likely, penalty kicks. But Mali’s players, and goalie, controlled the shoot-out from the beginning. Each of them went in, it seems, knowing that if there was a moment to proceed without fear and with hesitation, this was it. Gracefully, they dispatched South Africa without even needing to shoot the full five shots. The cheers were immediate and uproarious: “Mali!”

I was so deep into the African Cup of Nations that, when I returned on Monday to the U.S. and someone asked me whether I’d seen the game last night I said enthusiastically, “Yes!” But I thought they meant the Burkina Faso vs. Togo quarter-final — not the Super Bowl, which I had forgotten was even happening, and whose unfolding had barely registered in Senegal. I quickly learned the essential take-away from that event — the Beyoncé is totally fabulous — but realized that those who, here, found Burkina’s progress into the semi-final a notable historical event would be few and far between.

Tomorrow Mali goes on to face Nigeria in what is sure to be a difficult match. After last year’s amazing and emotional victory by Zambia, though, anything seems possible. And a victory for Mali in the midst of the war in the country would be a meaningful one. The conflict there has created, both within the country and among those watching and worrying from Senegal and other parts of the region, a powerful sense of dissonance and fragmentation. History is bearing down on the present: the long and complex history of Islam in West Africa, of the relationship between the desert regions of countries like Mali and the more populated cities, and of course of the history of French colonialism and neo-colonialism and the ambiguity of a population largely celebrating an intervention by France.

That there is a place, on the pitch, where “Mali” seems relatively straightforward – 11 players with one goal, though also with an infinite number of ways to reach it – is perhaps a kind of comfort. And so to is the idea that, at times like this, the game has a chance to be more than itself. At one point in the game, the one woman in the bar where I was watching pointed in surprise and wonder – above the ball, in a slow-motion close-up, you could just barely see a moth fluttering its wings.

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May 22 2012

Profile Image of Laurent Dubois

Drogbacité

“Didier Drogba delivered a long and passionate eulogy to the European Cup as Chelsea finally secured their holy grail.”The Sun, 21 May 2012

The Champions League final between Chelsea and Bayern was written, it seems now, purely to allow Didier Drogba a form of poetic catharsis worthy of fiction or film. The fact that Chelsea won was itself a kind of oddity, for throughout the game it seemed the most unlikely of outcomes. But as he had against Barcelona, Drogba became the master of the unruly and the absurd: none of what the other team did, not of the great passing and possession and continual shots on goal, mattered in the end. Just Drogba did, his head and then his foot.

I’m not a Chelsea fan, and watched the game with a fervent Chelsea-hater (learning that there is a tight kinship, down to color-coordination, between that and our local North Carolina tradition of deep, bilious Duke-hating). But I’ve got a soft spot for Drogba — his goals, and his goal celebrations, and the moments like this one where he performed a few steps from the “Drogbacité” dance (given the accent on the end, this would translate into English as “Drogbacity”) on this video (posted and commented on by Sean Jacobs at Africa is a Country).(For the full musical experience, watch the video of the song by Shazaku Yakuza)

But I am a fan of spontaneous, charismatic, oration — or at least of the idea of it. So it was that reading about Drogba’s post-victory performance suddenly redeemed the whole thing for me. After all, if a money-soaked, increasingly corrupt, time-devouring, and often seriously disappointing football culture should do anything, it should produce moments like this one:

Drogba, draped in an Ivory Coast flag, danced around the trophy on the pitch. But it was in the locker-room afterwards that he celebrated by transforming the trophy into an interlocutor, and his teammates into rapt, shouting, spectators.

As the Daily Mirror reported: “Why have you avoided us, eluded us, for so long? Why have you punished us so much?” asked Drogba… “For all these years you have flirted with us, tempted us, then run away. We thought you would come to us at Anfield twice, but you did not listen. Then in Moscow, you made us believe you were ours but turned your back, refused to let us touch you. Against Barcelona, again, you tortured us, made us want you even more, made it even harder. And even tonight, you hurt us first. Made us suffer. Made us fear it would be the same again, the late goal, the penalty kick, until the end. And now, at last, you belong to us.”

Though he had spoken at first to the trophy like a long-sought after lover, in the end, Drogba turned it into a religious object. As The Sun reported, he ended “his amazing 15-minute performance by bowing down to the cup and offering a prayer of thanks.”

The Guardian offered this summary: “The improvised eulogy touched upon everything from previous near-misses to a theatrical chronology of the evening’s events: from unexpected European debuts to defensive resilience, late headed goals to penalty heroics. The testimony was interspersed with a regular refrain that implored, with knees bent in mock worship of the silverware: ‘Why did you elude us for so long?’ ‘He was dancing on the table, praying to the cup,’ said the chairman, Bruce Buck. ‘It was almost a religious experience.’

We need, clearly, to call an emergency symposium of specialists in public oration — gathering Classicists who can speak to us about ancient Greeks and war with Ethnomusicologists who have studied West African griots — to write a proper analysis of this performance. (So far, perhaps the best description of the match, and Drogba’s role in it, has been written precisely in an ancient epic register.) For now, let’s just content ourselves with wishing that we had been there to see that brief sanctification.

This journey began in Abidjan, but much of it took place somewhere else — in, or on the edges of, French society. Drogba was sent by his family to life with his uncle, professional footballer Michel Goba, when he was five years old. His family eventually migrated to France in the midst of the austerity and political turmoil of the 1990s. As Adekeye Adebajo has written in a review of books on Drogba, his time in France was one of isolation. In speaking about his adolescence, Drogba referred to the Guinean novelist Camara Laye’s story of the painful exile of a student in France in the 1950s. His father, who had managed a bank back home, took menial jobs and the family lived in a cramped banlieue apartment in an area with many other African immigrants. “Didier’s teenage years in France were cold, lonely, and largely friendless,” writes Adebajo, defined by a sense of “sociocultural dislocation” for which football provided “some solace.”

Drogba’s followed his uncle’s path into professional football, playing in the 2nd division for several years before battling his way to Olympique de Marseille, and from there to Chelsea. He had — and still has — many ardent fans in France’s banlieue neighborhoods, where people remember his story. In a horrifying 2008 video shot in the banlieue of Montfermeuil, the  journalist collective Rue 89 documented a police beating of Abdoulaye Fofana. It took place during a France-Tunisia football match, which was being played not far away in the Stade de France. Fofana was watching the game when the police burst into his apartment, claiming he had thrown a fire-cracker at a passing patrol. They dragged him down the stairs, beating him all the way. As the video ends with an interview of his shocked family, you can see that his living room was covered with posters of soccer starts, including Zidane and, prominently behind the television, Drogba.

Many of the legendary French players in recent years shared Drogba’s experiences growing up in the French banlieue, notably Zidane, Makelele, Thuram, and Henry. But among those in his generation who came up through the French system, Drogba was one of the few of his calibre to opt not to play for France. Though his did play on a national French youth squad at one point, he ultimately chose the Ivory Coast as his national team. We can briefly imagine what might have been had he chosen to play for France instead — imagine the 2006 World Cup final with Drogba on the pitch (for better or worse)! “Ils auraient pu jouer en équipe de France,” — “They could have played in the French national team,” laments one website sporting a photograph of Drogba. But Drogba has expressed pride in his choice: This past February, when his team lost to Zambia in the African Cup of Nations Final — in part because of a missed penalty by Drogba — he commented that when the team returned to the Ivory Coast they were hailed and celebrated despite their loss. We weren’t really expecting that. This country is different — they always come to see us even when they lose. I had the luck to play for the French team when I was young. But I don’t think that if I played at the senior level I would have ever gotten this kind of reception.” And of course one of Drogba’s most legendary moments came when, in 2007, he intervened into politics by using a football match to try and put an end to the civil war in the Ivory Coast.

He might have been thinking of what happened to his former Chelsea teammate Nicholas Anelka during the 2010 World Cup, when he was kicked off the team and excoriated in the press for a locker-room outburst against Raymond Domenech. Drogba spoke up for Anelka then, and soon after the Champion’s League final news broke that the next step in his journey will be to join his friend at Shanghai Shenhua in China. If that ends up happening, it will be a fascinating twist in a story that has stretched from Abidjan to Dunkirk to Marseille to London and now Shanghai.

Will Drogba ever give another speech quite as good as the one he gave in Bayern the other night? Only if the occasion arises. As one reader pointed out in response to an earlier version of this post, that occasion might be just one year away: if Ivory Coast manages to clinch the African Cup of Nations, as they weren’t able to this year. What a speech Drogba might then give to that long and painfully sought after trophy? A long and winding tale, with a long evocation of the beautiful and moving game they lost against Zambia. And what if — we can dream! — they were to go on, full of confidence, and win the World Cup in Brazil in 2014? If either of those victories happen, let’s hope someone will be prepared with a video camera in the locker-room this time — to capture Drogba hassling and adoring another trophy. It would be worth seeing the Ivory Coast win just to see that, no?

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Feb 13 2012

Profile Image of Laurent Dubois

Football as Humanity: Zambia 2012

I think all of those who watched yesterday’s African Cup of Nations Final match between Ivory Coast and Zambia share my feeling: we were privileged to be allowed to participate in one of the more remarkable moments in modern sporting history. It was one, of course, that went largely under the radar in the U.S.: it was not aired here, there was little coverage in our press, and if you tried to grab someone excitedly on the street and shout “Zambia won!” you probably would have gotten a blank stare — though of course it depends on what street.

Jonathan Wilson, who provided excellent coverage of the tournament, wrote this beautiful match report for The Guardian. And Peter Alegi has written a striking account of the experience of watching the game, which includes videos of the grueling and intense penalty kick shoot-out. There was a tenderness, even love, to this experience that was truly remarkable: one felt that the teams were, in a way, suffering through this moment together, and deeply. All knew that any victory would mean suffering for the other team. When Zambia’s goalie Mweene took and made a penalty kick, the Ivory Coast goalie shook his hand afterwards. And singing, prayers, looks upwards, accompanied each step of the ordeal.

There is plenty to worry about with regards to African Football, as Achille Mbembe noted in a sharp interview entitled “Un tournoi de nains” — “A Tournament of Dwarves?”  Yet Zambia’s victory was significant, among other things, because nearly all the players on the team are based in Africa (notably in South Africa) rather than in Europe. It was a striking contrast to the Ivory Coast team, with a star-studded roster of names familiar to anyone who watches the English Premier League. The victory should raise new questions in the long running debate about what the best way for African nations to cultivate successful teams on the international level.

The historicity of the moment, of course, had everything today with the those who haunted it: the 1993 Zambia football team, nearly all of whom had perished in a plane crash just off the coast of Gabon on their way to the Cup of Nations in that year. Leigh Montville wrote a remarkable piece about that for Sports Illustrated. And you can hear the 1993 BBC report about the deaths here. A generation of Zambia’s greatest footballers was decimated. And, as Al Jazeera reported, the 2012 team prepared for yesterday’s final by making a pilgrimage to the coast to lay wreaths in memory of the dead.

As Paul Darby — a brilliant historian of African football – noted in a comment on the Football is Coming Home Blog, the contrast with what happened the day before within the super-monetized spectacle of the Premier League could not have been more striking. “A tale of two handshakes – the one that never was between Suarez and Evra and the one between Mweene and Barry during the penalty shoot out – highlighted the gulf in class between events in Libreville and planet Premiership.” It’s worth taking some time to think through precisely what the intersection of these two events means about the current state of global football, and it’s possible futures.

Perhaps the most remarkable moment of the evening came afterwards, though. Joseph Musonda, a 34-year-old veteran of the team who knew this would likely be his last chance to play in an African Cup of Nations final, was hurt in the opening minutes of the game. He had to watch, in pain, powerless, from the sidelines for the next 2 hours. But his teammates made sure he could ultimately celebrate a victory. And his coach, Herve Renard, made sure that he could be amongst them as they prayed in thanks, honoring the generations who had brought them to this moment.

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Feb 02 2012

Profile Image of Sophia Azeb

Why SCAF Is To Blame

Since its founding in 1907, Al Ahly S.C. has been known as ‘the people’s club,’ representing resistance against the many forms of colonialism that have long plagued the African continent. Initially the first sporting club to allow Egyptians to join, Al Ahly remains the most popular of Egyptian teams, wearing to this day the red kits that honour the pre-colonial Egyptian flag.

It is no great surprise, then, that Al Ahly Ultras – officially founded by Mahmoud Ghandour in 2007 (who is reported to have died in Wednesday’s violent attacks) – were on the front lines of both the initial “#Jan25” uprising and the continuing movement intended to topple the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF). Egyptians inspired by Tunisia and over 30 years of corrupt governance have utilized every resistance tactic at their disposal, including the well-organized and nearly fearless ultras.

Ahlawy are not the only ultras to make up the first line of defense against police and the military – fans of the comparatively upper-class Cairene neighborhood Zamalek’s team, Al Ahly’s longtime rivals, have also defended the ongoing revolution with zeal. It is, in fact, the truce called by Zamalek after years of bitter rivalry with Ahly in the aftermath of the devastating Port Said riots this Wednesday that symbolizes much of the complexity surrounding what the international media has largely misidentified as a “football riot.”

What happened is still unclear, though this much is known: On Wednesday, after Al Masry beat Al Ahly 3-1, attackers armed with knives and clubs stormed the pitch. Whether the armed crowds were only Al Masry Ultras or not is still being debated – after all, why attack the spectators and team members of the losing squad? Several players – Egypt’s beloved philanthropist and supporter of the revolution Mohamed Aboutrika included – were injured as they rushed into their dressing rooms (Aboutrika, shaken by theattack, has since announced his retirement from football).

http://youtu.be/D0YPAOhW5SQ

At least 73 people were killed (martyred, as many observers and mourners on Twitter, Facebook and the Egyptian blogosphere have noted), and many more injured. As those under attack – mostly Ahlawy, though this type of violence rarely leaves anyone untouched – attempted to leave, it was discovered that most of the exits were locked, and the stadium lights were shut off in the midst of the chaos.

The videos coming out of the Port Said stadium are horrendous. Such violence is not unheard of in the aftermath of football matches in Egypt (or anywhere in the world, for that matter), but it took even seasoned football announcers by complete surprise.

The Ultras in Egypt do not share the sometimes-fascist roots of their counterparts in Europe. Although politics also play an incredible role in the breakdown between fans of the various teams throughout Egypt, football had been frequently utilized by Mubarak’s regime as an attempt to distract citizens from their daily oppression, as well as stoke tensions between neighborhoods, cities, and nations. But this has not always been successful.

One of the many Ahly chants routinely heard at football matches is “Down, Down With the Junta Rule!” Last year I cited Dave Zirin in a short piece discussing Al Ahly’s political history on the media blog Africa Is A Country. Zirin’s observation that Egyptian football clubs and anti-government organizations “walked together in comfort” remains a reminder of why many Egyptians – myself, a product of four generations of Ahlawy included – do not for one moment believe this is “just” football fanaticism.

The video above displays clearly the riot-gear clad security forces doing nothing while Al Ahly’s players sprint to the relative safety of their dressing rooms. This is not the first time in the last year Egyptians have seen this happen. Recall that on 28 January of last year, many were paid and armed to attack protestors in Meydan Tahrir and other gathering areas.

Mubarak and his supporters not only used this as ‘proof’ that they were in the right, but also to allege that Egyptians were ‘not ready’ to lead themselves. This moment is clear in the minds of many at a moment when SCAF has echoed these same arguments in an attempt to retain power and maintain the Emergency Law that has been in place since 1980. SCAF now promises another ‘crackdown,’ though, as usual, it does not specify what particular entity will be targeted.

Al Ahly Ultras asserted in a public statement: “[SCAF] want to punish us and execute us for our participation in the revolution against suppression. Given this and the broader public rage directed at the military for protecting and serving only itself, we must expect that SCAF will be cracking down on the very people mourning the loss of life and continued absence of their liberty in Egypt. Indeed, the protests throughout the nation that immediately followed the riot turned into all-out battles between military police and ultras. As one interviewee warned The New York Times, “They turned the biggest fan base in the country against them.”

 

For more details and perspectives, please read James M. Dorsey’s articles on the Foreign Policy and Time websites, here and here, as well as Egyptian blogger Issandr El Amrani’s thoughts on the LRB blog.

 

Crossposted from Africa Is A Country.

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