Written in 2009 by Katie Greenstreet, Cole Grossman, Nelson De Oliveira, and Robert Weaver
Edited and Updated in 2013 by Morganne Gagne, Lauren Oliveri, and June Zhang
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 would be complete without a reflection on the 2010 World Cup, it’s influences on the soccer world 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 the 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 region. The success of the national team, especially Didier Drogba in particular, helped end a decade long civil war in the Ivory Coast. The entire team garnered national fame and 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 or any of his national teammates reside in the Ivory Coast. They all train and play 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. One of the most fundamental problems that African soccer must face is the decision of their players to choose relative obscurity in Europe over nationwide adoration in Africa. Despite the constant migration of top talent to Europe, Africa is in a golden-age of footballing talent. Although the World Cup in South Africa did not present many African front runners, Ghana established itself as a strong football power. 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 through the lens of the World Cup and illustrates the high hopes Africa has for the future of its football.
Please continue to browse our webpage to learn more about “the world’s game” in Africa. Click on the subpages on the drop-down menu above to learn more about soccer’s former, current, and future place on the continent.
How to cite this article: “Africa,” Written by Katie Greenstreet, Cole Grossman, Nelson De Oliveira, and Robert Weaver (2009), Edited and Updated by Morganne Gagne, Lauren Oliveri, and June Zhang (2013), Soccer Politics Pages, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp (accessed on (date)).