From Accra and Algiers to Zanzibar and Zululand, African football today reflects the history and culture of those who play the game and how they have shaped it in a distinctively African manner. Football may obey global rules, but the influence of magicians and healers, the nurturing of different tactics and styles of play, and local forms of spectatorship give football in the continent a cultural and sporting imprint all of its own. In African Soccerscapes Peter Alegi explores how football was influenced by colonialism, the growth of cities, independence, and global capitalism. Regional differences and the links between sport, culture and politics feature prominently in his book. In the independent era football offered a rare form of ‘national culture’ in ethnically diverse nations and symbolized pan-African unity and solidarity through the anti-apartheid struggle and the campaign for more guaranteed places for African teams in the World Cup finals. Huge numbers of Africans play overseas, disproportionately rewarding European leagues at Africa’s expense, and this phenomenon is discussed, as are the recent privatisation of the African game, football development programs and the growth of women’s football.
‘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
‘A fascinating history of African football, from empire to the post-colony.’ –– Sunday Independent (South Africa)
‘[a] lively and well-researched survey [which] provides a useful overview of the history of association football (“soccer”) in Africa.’ — Journal of Modern African Studies
Peter Alegi is Associate Professor of African History at Michigan State University. He is the author of Laduma! Soccer, Politics, and Society in South Africa. Alegi co-hosts the Africa Past and Present podcast — the most widely accessed academic podcast about African affairs.