Alas Africa has been colonized again! By who you say and why? Were we not foolish enough to let them do it the first time that we yet again open our doors to a second invasion? Elementary my dear Watson, this time not by missionaries/armies from europe coming to loot and plunder but by European club football.
When the first round of colonization occured in Africa, the missionaries, administrators and whatnot brought along with them some of the things that were part of their culture and among these things were sports like football, cricket and rugby (last two are pretty much played by southern africans and they get the side eye). Football or soccer as it is called in my ‘beloved’ America, stuck in many countries. The English, French and so forth brought this sport to Africans and we Africans accepted it as our own.
Because the game needed little or no special equipment to play, technically all you need to play a game of football is something round rolled into a ball like a paper or an orange or fruit to kick around and somewhere to designate as the goalposts the game became wildely popular. The sport flourished amongst the rich and the poor and to this day in any city on the continent if you go to the poor neighbourhoods you will catch the younger children playing a pickup game of football even when some of them havent had a bite to eat all day. There is a certain joy that comes from playing football as part of a team and making meaningful tackles, dribbles, passes and even occasionally scoring a goal.
You play football as soon as you can walk, Hell I remember playing it in primary school as part of the school team and even in secondary school. In college, I kept my football playing to student clubs. The point is that for a people for who it seems football is in our blood, an african country is yet to be the world champion in the sport we call football. This year 2010 Africa is hosting a world cup in South Africa and some say if there ever was a time for an African country to win the world cup it would be now.
What does this all have to do with colonization of Africa by European Club football. Of course European Club football is the Mecca and pinnacle of acheivement for any footballer who wants to play in the best paid and most professional football clubs in the world. Walk around lagos and you will see in the markets, cheap knockoff replics jerseys of almost every european football club especially the English clubs. Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool jerseys are rocked everywhere on the streets of lagos by the young and old. When these and other european clubs such as Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, AC Milan play, houses are divided and father and son argue. People bet on european football and swear such allegiance that I have been at a bar when a fight between a Chelsea fan and a Manchester fan, fortunately they got seperated before mcuh damage was done. I am personally a liverpool fan, ask me why? I have never lived in liverpool and started following them back in 98, I was impressed with their style of play after watching a documentary on the reds team of the 70s and fell in love with the Reds.
The same flair for the local football clubs is almost absent although it must be said that clubs in countries such as tunisia and Egypt enjoy a wide following. In the case of Nigeria, the local game is still being developed at club level. A full stadium for a meeting between Kano Pillars and Enyimba (two of the best local nigerian clubs) might not find a full stadium but tell anyone Manchester United is playing Arsenal and the TV viewing centre would be packed with people. Some people even know the line-ups and reserve players for european clubs more than they know their own national team.
So to finish my rambling, how do we win independence from european club football? I got no bloody idea, i thought someone else might. I think that winning the world cup in South Africa by an African team would be the first step to gaining independence from the european monarchy of football clubs. The best bet for Africa in my opinion is between Ghana, Cameroun, Nigeria and Ivory Coast (Yes I m West African biased so what its true).
I leave you with this video of Jay-Jay Okocha.