Jun 11 2010

Football: metaphor for African life (1)

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 8:03 AM

With the first African World Cup underway — and South Africa spectacularly taking a one goal lead on Mexico — we will witness a test of football historian Peter Alegi’s view of the effect of the game on African national political consciousness. “Africa is a huge continent, and soccer is one of the few areas of popular culture that really binds people together, but it is a very short-term thing,” Alegi said in advance of the games. “You talk to any Nigerian, and it’s hard to see what they all have in common, but for the 90 minutes that the Super Eagles are playing, there is a Nigeria.”

And sometimes, when a side disappoints with an embarassing loss, the complaints begin before the game is over. Africans on the sidelines, in my experience watching the sportat various venues in Africa, often view their national team as a metaphor for their national government. And the failure of teams in games often is attributed to the very factors bedeviling governments: lack of organization, corrupt or incompetent management, lack of dedication by the players themselves to the team cause.

While unquestionably football unites countries, the experience also reminds everyone of the divisions and deficits within a society as well. Dysfunctions on the field often mirror — or at least seem to in the heat of the moment — those found in African life.

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