In the name of the beautiful game
August 9, 2019 7:31 AM   Subscribe

In Cairo, Dakar, Harare or Luanda; over heated debates, raised voices, spilled drinks in roadside bars with beer, pepper soup and cigarettes; in living rooms with the television at full volume, with brothers, sisters, parents fixed to it while navigating the tension of supporting opposing teams; in office cafeterias and university hostels, the quiet of which will be inevitably be upset, glory comes to mean the same thing: A round leather ball kicked successfully into a net...Football has enormous, far-reaching, often paradoxical powers. It has fostered community amongst the most unlikely people. It has been leveraged as a call for national and continental unity; our differences pale in comparison to football, the tie that binds us together, the thing we all have in common. African Arguments explores the beautiful game.

We are all goal diggers: Photojournalist Andrew Esiebo explores how young Africans appropriate unconventional spaces to play football
It is usually little children, teenagers, or young adults playing. They are following the tradition of a sport beloved across the continent. They are creating the subculture of street football. They move the makeshift ball in the air, guide it nimbly among themselves, across concrete, sand, thick vegetation, planks and other surfaces that otherwise don’t lend themselves to good football. They play in between open shop stalls carrying items that may break when met with the force of a kicked ball, or on a beach where wayward waves constantly threaten to take away the ball and perhaps even the players. They will play with anything and anywhere. No surface – ideal or otherwise – will get in the way of their game.
A political history of the Africa Cup of Nations: is it still truly Africa’s cup?
What meaning does the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) have for the continent today? The competition was established at the high noon of decolonisation in the mid-20th century with Pan-African ideals of unity and cooperation at its heart. The current tournament in Egypt is the 32nd edition. That’s a whole lot of football, but has the tournament fulfilled the aspirations of its visionary founders of African solidarity and autonomy?
In the name of the father, the son and football: In a season full of football, a writer pens a belated Father’s Day letter to the man with whom he shared memories over the beautiful game.
This summer’s football-packed so I woke up with you and the game in mind. I woke up with memories of the joyful screams that erupted in our living room in GRA-Bamenda when Ernest Lottin Ebongué scored that 84th minute goal in Cameroon’s 3-1 victory against Nigeria in the 1984 African Nations Cup at the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Abidjan. I remember the penalty shoot-out loss to the Pharaohs of Egypt in 1986 that silenced the house in Nsam, Yaoundé. Honestly, it is impossible to forget the image of you moving in your seat, chin cupped in your right hand, as we watched Roger Milla run towards Colombia’s Higuita, dispossess him of the ball, pass it between the keeper’s legs, dash around him and kick it slowly into the opponent’s net, propelling Cameroon to the quarter finals of the 1990 World Cup.
The other Africa Cup Of Nations…in Paris: On the outskirts of the French capital, neighbours from different African countries complete for local pride and glory.
Paris was still mourning France’s loss to the US in 2019 Women’s World Cup that Sunday, 30 June. Some hope of victory, however, was found far from the Parc des Princes, the stadium where the game had been held two days earlier. In Évry, a district in the outskirts of the capital, another football game would be held soon. The European heatwave was warming up the public housing walls when John Nkomb, a 25 year-old French-Cameroonian player woke up with one thought in mind: “We will win it”. A modestly experienced athlete, Nkomb would not say that out loud until the end of the CAN-Epinetzo final match.
Podcast: The Beautiful Game's Soft Power
“As African national teams battle it out on the pitch in Cairo, Host Judd Devermont (CSIS Africa Program Director) is joined by Trina Bolton (U.S. State Department), Ayodeji Rotinwa (African Arguments) and Richard Downie (CSIS) to discuss the political implications and soft power potential of the ongoing 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. Guests kick off the episode assessing the current friction within Botswana’s ruling party and the recent political violence in Ethiopia.”
Egypt: When football stadiums become military zones. At the recently concluded AFCON, Egypt’s politics of control against its own fans was on display in the empty stands.
A few weeks ago while in an Uber, running errands in the debilitating heat of Cairo’s noon, the driver and I started to discuss why he no longer watches football. He stopped after the Port Said massacre of February 2012 where 72 Al-Ahly fans were killed, he said. They were attacked by rival football fans. He witnessed the massacre in the stadium and lost six of his close friends. “I can’t get myself to watch football again. What does it mean that people are just going to a match and then they get killed?” he asked. “I thought that football has nothing to do with politics but after Port Said I realised everything about football is politics!”
Cape Town to Cairo: a 50-day journey to see the beautiful game
While most foreigners have managed to steer clear of the political strife in Sudan, one unaware traveller walked right into the crossfire at the peak of the civil unrest. Alvin Zhakata, an adventure-seeking football fan from Zimbabwe was en route to Egypt on a courageous road trip across Africa to watch the Africa Cup of Nations. The 50-day trip started in Cape Town and was to end in the Egyptian capital. Zhakata, a 30-year-old nurse from Harare, confesses that football is his first love. So when Egypt was announced as the tournament hosts, he started planning his epic adventure.
posted by ChuraChura (1 comment total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I love the photo essay on appropriating space for soccer. Thanks for sharing this. I will definitely share it with my students when we discuss urban public space. I found that some of the quietest students had a lot to say when I had them watch a documentary critiquing the World Cup in Brazil. It's a lot easier to think through abstract concepts like "development" when it is funneled through a topic that you love.
posted by spamandkimchi at 5:49 PM on August 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

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