African Soccerscapes: How a Continent Changed the World's Game

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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 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.

In this compact, highly readable book Alegi shows that the result of this success has been the departure of huge numbers of players to overseas clubs and the growing influence of private commercial interests on the African game. But the growth of women's soccer 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Given the huge interest in the 2010 World Cup, many will be looking for something to contextualize the African soccer scene. African Soccerscapes is excellent, with a clear framework and progression, and lots of interesting stories.”
— Martha Saavedra, associate director of the Center for African Studies at UC Berkeley

“Peter Alegi’s African Soccerscapes is simply the best available overview of the history (of African soccer). Concise and to the point, you'll be through it before the round of 16 begins, having covered all the basics without forgetting the pleasures and the passions that animate African football.”
The Observer


“Nobody understands the background to African soccer better than the Italian-American historian Peter Alegi. This World Cup is his moment. His African Soccerscapes crams daunting erudition, gleaned over many years of study of African football, into under 200 pages of history.”
— Financial Times

“Peter Alegi’s brilliant and rich exploration of the history of football in Africa is long overdue and fills an enormous gap. His fluid and absorbing narration is a testimony to the centrality of the ‘beautiful game’ in everyday life on the continent. Soccerscapes is an academically rigorous book that vividly reverberates with Alegi’s passion for Africa and for football, a game to which he has devoted so much of his life.”
— Gerard Akindes, cofounder of Impumelelo, an interdisciplinary journal of African sports


“By putting the game in Africa in social, political, and historical context African Soccerscapes serves as a valuable reminder to be skeptical of simple narratives about South Africa 2010. . . . It is all much more complicated, and much more interesting, than that.”
— Pitch Invasion: Exploring the Global Game


“In this wonderfully researched and richly textured narrative, Alegi tells the vital story of how football transformed Africa and Africa transformed football during the 20th century. The book is a must-read for all those wishing to gain a greater understanding of the past, and future, of the global game.”
— Laurent Dubois, Duke University


“Via these outstanding works (Laduma! and African Soccerscapes), Alegi has placed African soccer on firm historiographical footing, while also popularizing a subject about which little was previously known beyond Africa’s borders.”
African Studies Review

“Alegi’s concise and ingenious book is a timely reminder about the impact African players have had on global football and an affirmation of Africa’s mounting stature as a football powerhouse…. Alegi writes in a language that is accessible to non-specialists and casual readers…. For academia, instructors teaching undergraduate courses about global sports or sports in Africa could assign the book or selected chapters to students, who most likely will appreciate the material for its informative strength, brevity, and lucidity.”
African Studies Quarterly

Library Journal
Few soccer books can offer the African perspective on the game as Alegi's (history, Michigan State Univ.) does here, taking a historical and economic approach to relate how British and French colonizers introduced soccer in Africa and how soccer has evolved there. Full of the names and places associated with soccer teams and legendary players ruling the pitch, the book challenges the conventional attitude that soccer is dominated by Europeans. Alegi also notes the major role soccer has played in the Pan-African movement and that many Africans play internationally, leaving their native lands for the richer playing fields of Europe. His most significant conclusion centers on soccer as an instrument in African anticolonial activities. This will not be the most popular soccer book of the summer, but it's one of the more important ones.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780896802780
  • Publisher: Ohio University Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2010
  • Series: Ohio Africa in World History Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 184
  • Sales rank: 667,506
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Alegi is an associate professor of history at Michigan State University and the author of Laduma! Soccer, Politics, and Society in South Africa. He is an editorial board member of the International Journal of African Historical Studies and book review editor of Soccer and Society.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

1 "The White Man's Burden": Football and Empire, 1860s-1919 1

2 The Africanization of Football, 1920s-1940s 14

3 Making Nations in Late Colonial Africa, 1940s-1964 36

4 Nationhood, Pan-Africanism, and Football after Independence 54

5 Football Migration to Europe since the 1930s 78

6 The Privatization of Football, 1980s to Recent Times 104

Epilogue South Africa 2010: The World Cup Comes to Africa 127

Notes 133

Bibliography 159

Series Editors' Note 171

Index 173

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