PtG Comment 02.07.2010

Ghana – Africa’s team?

Can one say that Ghana is Africa’s team? This is the question Brendan O'Neill poses in the always interesting online magazine Spiked. And it is an important question.

O'Neill believes that this is a Western construction and shows how the rich Western countries have a ‘top-down’ approach when it comes to Africa. Ignorance is what it is.

Not everyone speaks Swahili

The 2010 World Cup is sold to the world as Africa's World Cup. And in many ways it is correct. It is the first time the championship is hosted by an African nation and many Africans of course support other African countries when their own home teams have nothing more to play for. But Africa is not a united continent, not even on the football pitch.

The rivalry between Cameroon and Nigeria are compared by many with the rivalry between Argentina and Brazil, and I doubt that the Arab countries in the North, the francophone countries in West and the former colonies in the south are particularly united in their support of Ghana. Africa is not a big country where everyone speaks Swahili!

A unified Europe?

The best way to illustrate our condescension of the African continent might be to turn the problem upside down: Now that England is out, do we expect the English to give their support to the European teams that are left - maybe Germany? Hardly!

It may be that English supporters right now hate their own players for their bad performance during this year's World Cup, but to support Germany (or Spain or the Netherlands)? Never! The national feeling is too great, as it is in many other European countries.

A very good illustration of this issue can be found in John King's book England Away. This is the last book in a trilogy about English supporters. The first two books (The Football Factory and Head Hunters) are about how much the English supporters (in this case Chelsea fans) support their team and how much they hate everyone else.

In England Away we see the solidarity among English fans – albeit a community only founded out of necessity – in the fight against Germany. Manchester United and Liverpool supporters work together against a greater evil, namely, Mr. Fritz. Is this not the case in Africa? I think certainly it is!

Go opponent!

In the days of apartheid it became a sport among the black South Africans to root for the team South Africa played against, as a protest against the apartheid policy. The blacks wanted simply that the white South Africa should get a rap on the knuckles.

This article first appeared on Andreas Selliaas' blog 'Sportens Uutholdelige Letthet' on July 1 2010. Follow Andreas' blog (in Norwegian) on sportensuutholdeligeletthet.blogspot.comRead Brendan O'Neill's article from Spiked here