By Katie Greenstreet, Cole Grossman, Nelson De Oliveira, and Robert Weaver
African soccer is an impossibly large topic to adequately discuss on one website. One could easily fill a book with just a cursory discussion of the sport. People often tend to lump the entire continent together as one giant entity, forgetting the myriad of countries and cultures that truly define Africa. This page seeks to avoid such generalization while still offering a broad enough commentary to adequately inform readers on the subject by focusing on a few topics that stand out as the most important issues in African soccer today. Those are the political and economic effects of soccer on life in Africa, as well as notable accomplishments on the field by African soccer teams. Finally, no analysis of African soccer can be complete without a look forward to the upcoming World Cup in South Africa and beyond. These categories are tools to help us understand the changes that soccer has brought to Africa and the methods it uses to affect this change.
Before delving deeper into the intricacies of African soccer, take a moment to read about the sport in the Ivory Coast, a country that encompasses many of the problems, but also much of the progress, of soccer in modern Africa. The Ivory Coast men’s national soccer team is a poster child for both the successes and the failures of African soccer. The team has been extraordinarily successful on the field, but more importantly they have brought meaningful change to the Ivory Coast. The success of the national team, and Didier Drogba in particular helped to end a decade long civil war in the Ivory Coast. The entire team became famous nationally, but Drogba was deified. A Vanity Fair feature article on the Ivory Coast national team describes Drogba’s popularity in his home country. “Drogba, the charismatic captain, became an icon. Young Ivorian men dressed like him, favoring sleeveless T-shirts and hair gel. Women swooned over his classic runway looks—broad shoulders, high cheekbones, sculpted jaw. Musicians wrote songs about him, and billboards with his likeness called on people to display their Drogbacité—their Drogba-ness. One-liter bottles of Bock, a locally brewed beer, became known as “Drogbas.”
The paradox here is that neither Drogba, nor any of his national teammates reside in the Ivory Coast. They all play their soccer in Europe. A few like Drogba are international stars and play for the top teams in the world, but the majority are laboring in the lower leagues of Europe. That they would choose relative obscurity in Europe over nationwide adoration in Africa is one of the fundamental problems that African soccer faces today. Despite the constant migration of top talent to Europe, Africa is in a golden-age of footballing talent. The upcoming World Cup in South Africa will almost certainly mark the best result by an African team in the tournament, and it could well lead to an African winner. Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Drogba’s Ivory Coast, and even the host nation of South Africa are all capable of making deep runs into the tournament. It is clear that African soccer has made tremendous leaps since the colonial era when Mozambiquan Eusebio was pressed into service for Portugal. What is unclear is exactly how far it can go. The following YouTube video offers a beautiful montage of African soccer, and illustrates the high hopes Africa has for the future of its football, the hope that soon, an African team will win the World Cup, perhaps even on African soil in 2010.
Please continue to browse our webpage to learn more about “the world’s game” in Africa. Click on the subpages below to learn more about soccer’s former, current, and future place on the continent.
How to cite this article: Katie Greenstreet, Cole Grossman, Nelson De Oliveira, and Robert Weaver, “Africa,” Soccer Politics Pages,http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp (accessed on (date)).
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