Role Of African Football On Africa Cultural Studies Essay

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What is the importance or role of African football on Africa as a continent? In addition to the aforementioned question, to what extent does African football influence the game on a global stage?


In the following document the above questions will be answered by means of qualitatively researching African aesthetics and discourse, the history of African football, the impact the game has on society, economical importance, success stories, and the development of the sport and education. The use of a case study and questionnaire will also be utilised in order to support the outcomes of the above questions.


The African continent has over two thousand languages, consisting of thousands of cultures, each with its own system of reason. Given the extraordinary diversity of the African continent, there are no single aesthetic philosophy that can characterise Africa as a whole. In support to the previous statement, each culture may possess several aesthetic discourses, as do artistic genres. In modern-day Africa, globalisation complicates aesthetic philosophy to the extent that one cannot discuss the aesthetics of contemporary African art without taking into account transnational paradigms and hybrid visions. (Science Jrank, 2010).

According Jean-Godefroy Bidima, the interpretation of African art mainly centres on religion both by European and African writers. While Engelberth Mveng believes, religion strongly features as the final foundation of African aesthetics. The former president of Senegal and author of several books, Leopold Senghor, believed otherwise. Senghor firmly believed that rhythm is the ultimate foundation of African aesthetics. Senghor expressed that rhythm is the architecture of the African being, the vital force and the dynamism behind the variety of forms. (Imamichi et al., 2009, p.21).

The vital force at the same time expresses itself on various levels; geographical, social, contextual, historical, mythical, and artistic. Thus demonstrating that the vital force in all its forms and levels is identical to itself, and diversifies itself in a manifold. (Imamichi et al., 2009, p.21).

African art is even more complicated by expressing itself in a dynamic dualism. In whatever type, African art is always in a state of transition - it never stops changing. Depending on the place and context, African art changes its appearance while also trying to liberate its hidden essence - the vital force. Melodic texts in African musical arts are composed of, and move between, a vast variety of elements, from mere playing to the sacred, political, and pedagogical. African art forms are living elements, and are never at rest. These living art forms move between the audible and the inaudible, the said and unsaid, and the visible and invisible. Thus an element of uncertainty always surrounds African art. The need to create something new while also taking care of traditions plays an important role in the element of uncertainty in African art. (Imamichi et al., 2009, p.21).

Displayed in the realm of possible, African aesthetics provides "Beauty" with an element of transition as well. "Beauty" is the sense of achievement and an event. "Beauty" displays itself in various contrasts, namely, between the beautiful and the ugly, the past and future, as well as harmony and disharmony. African aesthetics contributes to the living community in this manner. (Imamichi et al., 2009, p.21).

One way to demonstrate African aesthetics and how the uniqueness of African art contributes to the African identity by showcasing inventiveness, beauty and effectiveness, while interconnecting itself with African Football on a global stage - one can examine the hand-painted Ghanaian Mobile Movie Posters from the 1980's, and a recent advertising campaign for the FIFA Football World Cup held in South Africa - by the American sport's television broadcaster, ESPN.

During the 1980's, Ghanaian entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to create mobile open-air movie theatres with the introduction of video cassettes, and bringing in many cases, Western films to remote Ghana audiences. The mobile theatre owners needed to promote their current and future film screenings in order to stir-up interest, thus in turn theatre owners commissioned Ghanaian artists to hand-paint many of the promotional movie posters - generally on sliced-up flour canvas sacks. (Figure 1 - Ghanaian 1980's Mobile Movie Posters (Meathaus, 2007).). These commissioned artists were encouraged to take substantial liberties with the posters, with many of the painters never even viewing the particular films, only hearing descriptions from the theatre owners. These methods in return resulted in many movie posters being simply copies of the images on the video cassettes, while others depicted wild interpretations of the particular films. (Davis, 2009).

At the end of 2009, the American sport's television broadcaster, ESPN, commissioned the South African illustration house, Am I Collective, under the direction of New York based advertising agency, Wieden+Kennedy, to produce 33 murals as part of an advertising campaign to promote the much anticipated sporting spectacle, the FIFA Football World Cup 2010 in South Africa. A team of nine skilled illustrators designed for a period of three months in order to produce the final murals, with intense depth and attention to detail. The illustrators utilised the Ghanaian 1980's movie posters only as reference, while at the same time creating the murals with an experimental yet, refined and contemporary African feel. Each mural depicts a participating nation's ambitions and/or characteristics. (Figure 2 - ESPN FIFA Football World Cup 2010 Advertising Campaign (Chula, 2010). Am I Collective managed to create a global advertising campaign with an African base - not only promoting an African artistic style, but also showcasing the immense talent present on the African continent to world. (Marklives!com, 2010).

The notion of what Africa is or what it should feel like to be an African is a complex concept that makes it extremely problematic to explore. Particularly in the contemporary era, the concept 'Africa' is conceived differently in various geographical and historical contexts by both Africans and non-Africans. As the African continent's boundaries - geographical, cultural, historical, and representational - shifted over time according to the dominant conceptions and configurations of global powers and racial identities, so did the meanings, descriptions, images, and discourses of Africa. Both the processes of African integration and contemporary globalisation reconfigured the boundaries and meanings of Africa up until the start of the twenty-first century. (Science Jrank, 2010).

Discourses on the notion what Africa is, can be examined in various methods. The most common approach to examine the concept of Africa is to analyse the Afrocentric and Eurocentric paradigms, and to distinguish between the beliefs and conceptions of what Africa really is to the 'West' and to Africa itself. The 'West' or 'First' world, are "the countries of the world that are well developed economically and industrially and that have a relatively high standard of living" (Your Dictionary, 2010). This method assumes homogeneity within each paradigm and creates an epistemic division between the Afrocentric and Eurocentric approaches, which in return makes it rather problematic as the two paradigms are otherwise intensely implicated with each other. Other taxonomic and typological approaches of what Africa is can include the following; ethnical, religious, linguistic and ecological taxonomies. As with the Afrocentric and Eurocentric contrasting paradigms, these do not exhaust the possibility of other categorisations, but they do however have heuristic importance. (Science Jrank, 2010).

Seeking a connection between African discourse and African Football, one can examine the manner in which the Western perceptions of African players have changed dramatically in recent years compared to as early as two decades ago. During 2008, many major European football clubs requested that the Africa Cup of Nations be moved to a different time slot during the year, as they lose valuable football skills every time an African player is called up to national team duties. "The Africa Cup of Nations, also referred to as the African Nations Cup (ANC) is the main international association football competition in Africa. It is sanctioned by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), and was first held in 1957. Since 1968, it has been held every two years." (Wikipedia, 2010). This clearly indicates that in the past two decades African Football has become a formidable force on the global game of football. Previously, most European clubs viewed African players' quality and skill as not on par with Western players' abilities, but with development in the sport picking up pace in recent times and football being an integral part of African children's lives, this view has clearly changed. (Samuels, 2008, p.132). Financial investments from European clubs in various African football clubs - to name a particular club would be that of Ajax Cape Town - is also evidence that the out-dated Eurocentric perceptions of African football has changed dramatically. As these investments in return help deliver world-class African football players, while also lending a helping hand in educating financially stricken players.


The following research paper will be based on a historical and current academic framework. The chosen research topic plays a personal importance in my interest in the chosen sport of football, particularly African football. The chosen research topic is furthermore tremendously relevant to recent happenings on the African continent, particularly South Africa - being the first African nation to host the world largest sporting spectacle, the FIFA Football World Cup. "Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is the international governing body of the sport of association football (sometimes called simply football, or soccer). FIFA is based in Zurich, Switzerland." (Word IQ, 2010).

A variety of academic and non-academic published books and web references will be utilised, in order provide the needed support for the research topic. Furthermore a detailed case study of the FIFA Football World Cup 2010, as well as a questionnaire based on the social networking web site, Facebook, will be accordingly utilised in order to lean its support towards the research topic. A variety of elements and factors would be examined and taken into account when relating to the chosen research topic.

Summary of Chapters

Chapter One

Chapter one introduces the chosen research topic of; what is the importance or role of African football on Africa as a continent? In addition to the aforementioned question, to what extent does African football influence the game on a global stage?

While chapter one introduces the chosen research topic, the aims of the following research document are set out as follows; to answer the questions pointed out by the research topic by means of qualitatively researching African aesthetics and discourse, the history of African football, the impact the game has on society, economical importance, success stories, and the development of the sport and education. The use of a case study and questionnaire will also be utilised in order to support the outcomes of the research topic.

Chapter one furthermore provides a general context and introduction to African aesthetics and discourse, while giving an explanation to how the above statements relate to the chosen research topic, with reference to a particular Ghanaian artistic style and a recent advertising campaign for the American sport's television broadcaster, ESPN.

Chapter Two

Chapter two provides a detailed introduction into African aesthetics and discourse as well as the history behind these statements. Throughout chapter two a thorough contextualisation will take place in order to explain and provide in-depth evidence to support the chosen research topic of African football.

Chapter Three

Chapter three will introduce a detailed case study to support the chosen research topic. The case study involved is that of the recent FIFA Football World Cup event held in South Africa during 2010. Varies factors would be examined in order to fully understand the impact the event had on the African society, changes in global perceptions, economical importance, sport and educational development, and the lasting legacy this major sporting event left behind.

Chapter Four

Chapter four will conclude the research paper on African football. The conclusion will review the research topic and the information or findings contained within the document, and determine whether the research topic was fully answered.

Appendix of Figures

Figure 1 - Ghanaian 1980's Mobile Movie Posters (Meathaus, 2007).

Figure 2 - ESPN FIFA Football World Cup 2010 Advertising Campaign (Chula, 2010).

Figure 3 - ESPN FIFA Football World Cup 2010 Advertising Campaign (Chula, 2010).