We’ve been quiet for a while, but we’re slowly getting back into the swing of things and getting our blog mojo back. It may take a while though, but we’ll get there. We’re also getting soft bellies (the blog’s been around for a while now). But here’s my first Weekend Special of the Fall. It may be a bit soccer-heavy up top, but read till the end. Hope there’s still time to read it before the week starts.

First up, afrographique, the people who will turn any piece of information on the continent into an infographic, has one depicting the home and away kit colours of the top 20 African national soccer teams as ranked by FIFA … well ranked by Coco Cola. [via shazeeed]

* To continue with football: Egypt’s football federation hired an Ameircan as their new national team coach. This is a first for an African team. An American coach.  The lucky man who has to contend with football mania in Egypt is Bob Bradley, until recently coach of the US national team. (To get a sense of the football culture Bradley has signed up for by typing “Bob Bradley” and “Egypt” into Youtube’s search engine.)  Anyway, this can only enhance the reputation of American football, err soccer. [ESPN]

* More football. Remember this name: Paul Pogba. Currently in Manchester United’s youth team where’s he’s being coached by former player Paul Scoles. Born in France, Pogba briefly played for Guinea, the country of his parents, but has since changed allegiances to France. The boy’s a bit special, as they would say. Here’s a taste of his talents:

* More sports. Watch Kenyan marathon runner Patrick Makau winning the Berlin Marathon last week and signaling the end of the brilliant career of Ethiopian Haile Gebrseselassie. Makau almost misses the finish line in the process:

* The US national team has featured a number of players of African descent. But DC United goalkeeper Bill Hamid will probably be the first African player from a Muslim background. Bill’s family migrated from Sierra Leone. Hamid, btw, is the son of Sully Hamid, a former professional footballer himself. (He played fro Queen’s Park Rangers in England.) Bill’s been in the news since he started playing professionally–example from Sporting News last week (nothing about his family background though) and where he got sent off last month and further back, last year, when he made his debut for his club. Bonus: below are some highlights courtesy of DC United:

*  And since we’re on the topic of African migrants to the US.  Related: In his review (last week) of a new book by the American journalist Toure (yes, he uses one name) about what it means to be black in America since Barack Obama became US President, Harvard professor Orlando Patterson notes that in its 251 pages “… there is no consideration of the ways immigrant blacks and mixed-race people are contributing to post-black hetero­geneity.”  Which reminds me of the statistics put out over the summer by the Migration Policy Institute that “from 1980 to 2009, the African-born population in the United States grew from just under 200,000 to almost 1.5 million.” Here‘s a link to that report.

* In his new book, Pascal Bhokar Thiam, a musician and professor at the University of San Francisco, refers to the United States “the most Africanized nation in the Western world.” From Timbuktu to the Mississippi Delta: How West African Standards Shaped the Music of the Delta Blues also makes a claim about “the real birthplace of jazz.” It is not New Orleans. Listen here from the 14 minute mark. (We’ll try and get the book and review it here.)

* Brian Shimkovitz, the founder of the blog Awesome Tapes From Africa, gets interviewed by The Village Voice. His claim to fame is that he uploads the contents of obscure West African pop music onto his blog. Out of this, he has build a career as a DJ (to places like Latvia and this weekend in Brooklyn) and will soon debut as a label owner. More power to him. The first release of his re-issue label will be Nâ Hawa Doumbia’s 1982 album La Grande Cantatrice Malienne, Vol. 3). Some extracts from the interview:

Have any musicians ever reached out with a cease and desist?

No, never. One rap artist from a compilation from Burkina Faso reached out last year and said: “My life has changed a lot, so the stuff that I rap about in that song doesn’t really reflect me now. Would you mind taking that track down? I appreciate what you are doing, but take that track down.” I mostly post stuff that you can’t even buy over here anyway, so it’s been pretty positive. The people who represent the artists or the artists themselves tend to be pretty excited about it because of the promotional possibilities.

How does the label work?

I’m partnering with the artist and making sure they get 50% after expenses have been covered and I’m trying to keep the expenditures low. It being 2011, you can’t make any money selling records anyway. The goal of putting these records out is to allow these people to maybe have a career outside their hometown.

* Will hip hop make a difference in Zimbabwe? The BBC World Service reports from a hip hop festival in the capital Harare.

* Another question: “What can we learn about contemporary culture from watching dayglo-clad teenagers dancing geekily in front of their computers in such disparate sites as Brooklyn, Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, and Mexico City?” Like the group of Nigerian teenagers in skinny jeans in the latter part of this post? Wayne Marshall (blogger, rapper, DJ and academic) breaks down what this all means.  Here.

* The New York Times finally discovers the relationship between rap music and political opposition in Senegal. And no, Akon was not mentioned in the piece.

* Zambia has a new President, Michael Sata. He won after three days of vote counting and only once the incumbent conceded. Remember the last elections in Ghana? It had the same kind of stand-off and outcome. So this is a good sign. I mean the way we handle elections.  As for Sata, is a populist–he made promises to deal with inequality in Zambia and has strong criticisms of Chinese businesses in Zambia (for some his comments on the Chinese borders xenophobia)–so interesting times ahead for Zambians.

* We’ve featured a short, cryptic post on the continuing protests by young Angolans against Life President Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ kleptocratic regime. Now The Guardian has published an excellent take on developments there [H/T: Marissa Moorman] by Rafael Marques de Morais, one of the best journalists in that oil state and the man behind the anti-corruption website makaangola.org (it also has an English version if you wondering). Here’s a sample from The Guardian piece:

What has made these protests so significant is not so much the courage of such a few, but the sheer incapacity of the regime to remain calm and composed when a few shout for the president to step down. It is the ruling MPLA party’s violent reaction that makes the protest internationally newsworthy and a catalyst for solidarity among people.

* The end of the Gaddafi regime (no one knows where he is, but he is definitely not in power) means Libya’s role in African politics will change. William Wallis, an old Africa hand (this is what they call these people) at the Financial Times, wrote in the paper this week, that the new government won’t continue the large monetary gifts to African leaders and support for various rebel groups, but will look “… to the Arab world and north to Europe.” As for how African states are responding, Wallis notes that Nigeria became the first country to break with support for Gaddafi or ambivalence towards the rebels. In the process, Nigeria upstaged South African, the “rival [continental] heavyweight” when it recognized the new government. The South Africans, like they did with Cote d’Ivoire and Zimbabwe, made the case for the incumbent. Wallis also writes that Gaddafi’s end has other implications too, especially in the Sahel.

* Meanwhile, Joseph Schumpeter has some disciples in South Africa. Ghanaian Fred Swaniker wants his African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg to churn out 6,000 leaders in the next 50 years. [Financial Times again]

* You may not know about them yet, but Turkey’s secretive Gulen Movement–a mix of conservative Islam, Turkish nationalism (minus Ataturk), free market capitalist ideology and close ties to Turkey’s ruling party–is growing in influence on the African continent. (I’ve had my own brief run-in with them on a short visit to Turkey.) Le Monde Diplomatique (the English edition) has published a few pieces about them, including of their activities in Africa. The best piece on Gulen’s ambitions is by my friend Suzy Hansen.  You should also read Stephen Kinzer’s recent review essay in The New York Review of Books. Here’s an excerpt:

Attacking the [Turkish] government on sensitive issues like Kurdish rights, criticizing its handling of the Ergenekon case [a mix of journalists and army generals accused of wanting to overthrow the government], and ridiculing [Prime Minister] Erdogan personally are not the only ways Turkish journalists can endanger themselves these days. There is another subject some fear to probe too deeply: the power of Fethullah Gulen, a shadowy but immensely influential Turkish religious leader. From a secluded estate in Pennsylvania, where he moved to escape possible prosecution for alleged antisecular remarks in the 1990s, Gulen directs a worldwide movement that is one of the most remarkable forces in modern Islam.

According to Carter Vaughn Findley (author of the new book Turkey, Islam, Nationalism, and Modernity: A History, 1789-2007), the movement has millions of followers, owns newspapers and television stations in Turkey and beyond, and claims to oversee more than one thousand schools in more than a hundred countries—including the United States, with thirty-three in Texas alone. It sends doctors to Africa and elsewhere when disasters strike. After the September 11 attacks, Gulen took out an advertisement in The Washington Post declaring that “Islam abhors such acts of terror.” He has good relations with non-Muslim religious leaders—in 2003 he met with Pope John Paul II—and rejects fundamentalism.

In his native Turkey, Gulen’s movement has become a uniquely influential force. Both Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul are said to admire it. A cable written in 2006 by an American diplomat in Ankara, released by WikiLeaks, cited reliable reports that the Gulenists use their school network (including dozens of schools in the U.S.) to cherry-pick students they think are susceptible to being molded as proselytizers, and we have steadily heard reports about how the schools indoctrinate boarding students.

Press reports suggest that graduates of these schools have risen to important posts in government and the bureaucracy. Secularists see them as foot soldiers in a quiet but insidious campaign to penetrate the state and, ultimately, make it more religious.

No one can be sure, because the movement resists scrutiny. Somebody presumably oversees Gulen’s worldwide education network, for example, but no one knows who that is. Scholars who want to visit dormitories where Gulen’s students live have been denied permission. He rarely grants interviews, and his long-term goals are unclear. This movement may be, as its sympathizers insist, a benign force that stabilizes Turkish life. But some Turks mistrust it, and their suspicion deepened when it turned out that one of the journalists arrested in March, Ahmet Sik, was about to publish a book about its rising influence called The Imam’s Army. Police confiscated advance copies. The text, which among other things alleges that Gulen sympathizers dominate the Turkish police, quickly appeared on the Internet, setting off what one blogger called “a frenzy of downloads.”