Football is used as a tool to unite people. To unite people in the spirit of the game, and to show respect to one another. Nowhere is that more evident than in the English Premier League, where there are 68 nationalities represented. Among those there are close to 40 African players in the Premier League. Ever since the early days where Englishmen sought to teach their fellow Europeans of the game, the game has caught on to places across the globe where there were significant European populations. For example, in Latin America, it is almost a joke to consider that football isn’t the inherent traditional pastime.
Some of the world’s best known football clubs were inaugurated by owners and/or founders of varying descent, such as FC Barcelona, AC Milan, Juventus among others. Conversely it can be said that right from the start, football has captured a worldly appeal, and has become a medium for communication and in many parts of the world, a chance to celebrate and share emotions and feelings of all kinds.
Football in particular has had a huge impact in the continent of Africa. Some of the founding members of what is now known as the Confederation of African Football, or simply CAF, were politically ruled by European countries at the time. As the world became more global and interconnected, the beautiful game followed suit. Football is a way of expression, as now the specific styles of football vary across the globe, those ideologies can be as diverse as those of political theologies.
Africa is a vast continent, that is the second-highest in population as well as in area. There are numerous countries, and also numerous ways of thought. There are cultures and subcultures. There are clans and there are sub-clans. Rich, poor, young, old, educated, uneducated. But arguably the single strongest element to unite people without borders is football. It in itself could be considered a culture. Or a language among languages.
That is the message that the world’s governing body in football has been trying to advocate. Regional football organizations such as CAF and UEFA have also followed suit under those mandates.
The world’s top club teams have at least one base in Africa, due to its evident talent in producing some of the world’s best footballers. AC Milan has one in Kenya. Inter Milan has one in Kampala. In the past decade we have seen sublime players coming from Africa, such as Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o, Salomon Kalou among others.
African football carries its own distinction from other types. When a country is going through times of political and social instability, football can be used as a device to unite countrymen together as we saw during the 2010 World Cup where Didier Drogba promised to represent the country with dignity. It can strengthen communities that are known as third-world. It can alleviate tension between rival sects.
African football is quickly catching the attention of the world, as we saw with the Africa Cup of Nations. For those who watched the final between Ivory Coast and Zambia, it was described as an electrifying game with entertainment abundant. It also highlighted the quick development of the sport, in which many of the players playing for their country at the tournament play for big clubs as professionals, and are integral parts of their club teams.
African footballers can be found throughout the world at the club level, and their talent is highly regarded. Many European coaches now lead African clubs or national teams. With that being said, there is no doubt that Africa is impacting the sport on a global basis, and strives for more.
There are also the African players who play for national teams outside of Africa, possibly due to their parents immigrating into another country or other personal reasons. On the French national team, there is a significant amount of diversity and many African players within the squad. One particular player to note plays for the German national team, by the name of Jerome Boateng. His father is Ghanaian, but his mother is German. His brother is also a professional footballer, but he chose to play for the land of his father, Ghana, instead of Germany. This may be linked with the idea that Africans can be found in almost every society nowadays and the world is a lot more open to people from all races.
It’s unique in its own way. The popularity of the sport coupled with its own diverse culture is what makes football the fastest developing sport of all. Football is a lot like us. For example, as generations succeed generations, football evolves. As football evolves, we can use that evolution to inspire people in the right ways. We can develop campaigns and use social technologies to educate others about racism or other social vices which we know to be prevalent today.
African football impacts football itself in a significant way. It’s best to acknowledge the important feats of African footballers and their positive contributions to the world’s sport.
Africa is as diverse of a place there is. Football brings unity throughout the continent and throughout the globe, and its impact is beyond compare. Remembering that the beautiful game is our game, and we share common values beyond race, ethnicity, and language. In the Premier League and beyond, African players are some of the most influential characters in almost any field relating to the sport.
Written By: Mustafa Sharif