When FIFA, the world football (read: soccer) governing body, awarded the World Cup to South Africa in May 2004, Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratic president spoke for a lot of his compatriots and millions on the continent when he exclaimed: “I feel like a 15 year old.”
Africa has historically been shunned by world football – viewed mainly as a cheap source of talent for Europe’s football leagues. Expectations are therefore high for what will be Africa’s first World Cup tournament. So are debates, not just about the football, but also about its wider significance: whether about development, nation building, identity, expression, politics, history, media images, or consumption. To discuss this, I put together panel of experts – journalists, writers and academics – to unpack these and other questions. My workplace, The New School, will physically host the event.
The panelists for our event are the writers Binyavanga Wainaina, Teju Cole and the journalists Austin Merrill and Tony Karon. Binyavanga, of course, wrote the viral essay “How to write about Africa,” and founded the literary magazine, Kwani!, while Teju wrote a short travelogue about his time back in Nigeria. Tony is a South African journalist and editor who writes regularly about football (see here, here and here). Austin is responsible for Vanity Fair’s increased focus on football culture.
They’re also all fans of the beautiful game.
Update: May, 18, 2010. The video of the event is now live on The New School’s Youtube channel.