In African Soccerscapes, I found the modern extraction of talent from Africa to be disturbing. Peter Alegi, the author of the book, finds parallels between this modern exploitation of African resources and the pillaging of Africa throughout the colonial period.
And, to a certain extent, he is correct. In recent memory, players like Michael Essien and Yaya Toure have made incredible splashes in the Premier League, and their goals have resounded across the European continent. These are players who, if they did not wear Chelsea or Manchester City blue, would have dominated for clubs in their home countries of Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
These players are scouted and brought to Europe, and, while they have some say in the matter, the monetary rewards of European glory means that there is no real choice. By playing in Europe, they are able to send money back to their families, to improve the quality of life of those that they love most. But this has led to the desolation of African leagues, to the glorification of a European style of futbol, and to the crippling of any sense of nationalism stemming from the sport. When natives of Nigeria, a country that has consistently had the best national team on the continent, go to bars to watch the EPL instead of watching their nation’s home league, something is seriously amiss.
As I read through this section of the book, I thought of what could be done to fix this system. Since the Bosman ruling, players have an unparalleled ability to take their financial destiny into their own hands. Consequently, the going price for a quality player in Europe has risen astronomically, providing even more incentive for starlets to leave the African continent.
Likely, this unfortunate trend can only be reversed with a vigorous, renewed interest in African football leagues from its native population. With a collective recognition that European leagues are exploiting their own kin, this can be a powerful repudiation of monetary interests and European values in favor of a new black consciousness. A monumental task awaits, but the continent can once again channel the Algerians and the Nigerians of the 1950s.