Africa and football: five notes for media students and cultural theorists
Keywords:Football, Soccer, FIFA World Cup, Neoliberalism, Globalisation, Premier Soccer League, English Premier League, Viewership, Media studies, Global south
Most analyses of African football have turned to neoliberalism and globalisation to explain developments, but these theories seem to lack analytical grip and predictive force. African teams have not improved their showing at FIFA World Cup tournaments over the past 30 years and in 2018 fared worse than in the past. South African comedian Trevor Noah’s claim that Africa won the World Cup because of the presence of many non-white players in the French team conceals the reality that African football has entered a phase of reverse migration, with many national teams are composed to a large extent of European born and based players. South Africa’s Premier Soccer League offers another problematic example: it is at once an example of successful broadcasting neoliberalism but raises problems in that its local success may be at the expense of successful globalisation of the game in South Africa. An examination of football viewership across sub-Saharan Africa may offer a better approach to understanding how sports partisanship and the ecology of leisure investment in sport works in a developing country, than theories from the Global North have.