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African Soccerscapes

How a Continent Changed the World's Game

Peter Alegi

Publication Year: 2010

From Accra and Algiers to Zanzibar and Zululand, Africans have wrested control of soccer from the hands of Europeans, and through the rise of different playing styles, the rich rituals of spectatorship, and the presence of magicians and healers, have turned soccer into a distinctively African activity.
African Soccerscapes explores how Africans adopted soccer for their own reasons and on their own terms. Soccer was a rare form of “national culture” in postcolonial Africa, where stadiums and clubhouses became arenas in which Africans challenged colonial power and expressed a commitment to racial equality and self-determination. New nations staged matches as part of their independence celebrations and joined the world body, FIFA. The Confédération Africaine de Football democratized the global game through antiapartheid sanctions and increased the number of African teams in the World Cup finals. The unfortunate results of this success are the departure of huge numbers of players to overseas clubs and the influence of private commercial interests on the African game. But the growth of the women’s game and South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 World Cup also challenge the one-dimensional notion of Africa as a backward, “tribal” continent populated by victims of war, corruption, famine, and disease.

Published by: Ohio University Press

Title Page/Copyright/Dedication

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pp. vii


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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

On May 15, 2004, Nelson Mandela wept tears of joy as the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) awarded South Africa the right to host the 2010 World Cup finals—the first on African soil. “I feel like a boy of fifteen,” he told the audience in Zurich. In South Africa, people of all races erupted in simultaneous, raucous celebration of the much-anticipated ...

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Acknowledgments [Includes Map Plates]

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pp. xv-xvi

I must first thank David Robinson and Joseph C. Miller, editors of the Africa in World History series at Ohio University Press, for giving me the opportunity to write African Soccerscapes. The final manuscript was vastly improved by detailed and constructive comments of two anonymous reviewers. Gill Berchowitz, Nancy Basmajian, and the production staff at ...

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Chapter One: “The White Man’s Burden”Football and Empire, 1860s–1919

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pp. 1-13

Modern sports start with European imperial expansion in the last two centuries. The agents of that imperialism played sports among themselves, but also saw sport as a tool of civilization. For example, British soldiers, sailors, traders, and government employees enjoyed football for their own entertainment, but they also saw it as pivotal in the European “civilizing ...

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Chapter Two: The Africanization of Football,1920s–1940s

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pp. 14-35

During the interwar years, as African towns and cities grew in size and importance, football expanded in scope and popularity. Town dwellers formed football clubs and organized competitions from Accra and Algiers to Zanzibar and Zululand. From the point of view of colonial officials and white residents, football might have seemed like a characteristically British ...

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Chapter Three: Making Nations in Late Colonial Africa,1940s–1964

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pp. 36-53

As anticolonial militancy intensified in the 1940s and 1950s, African nationalist movements forged connections with popular football teams, players, and fans. Stadiums and clubhouses became arenas in which workers, intellectuals, business owners, and the unemployed challenged colonial power and expressed a shared commitment to racial equality ...

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Chapter Four: Nationhood, Pan-Africanism, and Football after Independence

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pp. 54-77

The formation in 1957 of the Conf

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Chapter Five: Football Migration to Europe since the 1930s

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pp. 78-103

Michael Essien and Albert Youmba were talented African players who had decidedly different fortunes in the European football world. Essien, whose father was an elite footballer, grew up in Accra, Ghana. At the age of thirteen he joined Liberty Professionals, and in 1999 he came to the attention of European talent scouts when he proved decisive in Ghana’s ...

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Chapter Six: The Privatization of Football,1980s to Recent Times

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pp. 104-126

As the accelerating movement of leading African players to Europe illustrates, world football became increasingly commercialized, and globalized, during the 1990s. The advent of professional football in Britain in the 1880s and in continental Europe between the wars underscored the game’s economic implications from its earliest days. But even in the consumer ...

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Epilogue: South Africa 2010: The World Cup Comes to Africa

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pp. 127-132

The end of apartheid and the advent of democracy in South Africa in 1994 seemed to infuse soccer with the spirit of what Nobel Peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu called “rainbow nationalism”—the idea that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white,” to borrow from the Freedom Charter, the blueprint for the liberation struggle adopted in ...


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pp. 133-157


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pp. 159-170

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Series Editors’ Note

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pp. 171-172

The field of African history has developed considerably in recent decades, but its discoveries and insights are rarely acknowledged outside the continent. Students and instructors in related areas seek accessible points of entry to an African literature that they often find hard to understand. ...


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pp. 173-179

E-ISBN-13: 9780896804722
Print-ISBN-13: 9780896802780

Publication Year: 2010