How a Continent Changed the World's Game
By Peter Alegi
Ohio University Press, Paperback, 9780896802780, 179pp.
Publication Date: February 14, 2010
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 Confederation 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.
“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