Playing for the home team

Most national teams that made it to the 2013 African Cup of Nations in South Africa play in Europe. Ethiopia is one of the few teams composed of mainly "home" based players.

Image: Ondřej Odcházel, via Flickr CC.

It is a positive that major cable networks are bothering to relay the results of the African Cup of Nations, though it is a shame their offerings remain annoyingly Eurocentric. After Alain Traoré equalized for Burkina Faso yesterday, CNN gleefully reminded the viewers at home that Traoré played his club football for Lorient in France! Adane Girma’s inspired response for Ethiopia drew no such parallel reference. For the record, Girma plays for St George FC in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia’s premier football club was formed in response to Italy’s invasion in 1935 and has long been a symbol of Ethiopian nationalism. Now that I would have thought is information the average CNN viewer could share with their cappuccino.

Ethiopia is one of the few teams composed of mainly “home” based players. A significant number of South Africa (in fact, the majority of their squad and team), Angola, the DRC, Tunisia and Morocco’s squads, play for domestic clubs.

There are plenty of home based players, but when western media comment on their contribution they almost never acknowledge the home based club, whereas when a player who plays in France, England or elsewhere in Europe scores, we are bombarded with references to the European club. Tuesday’s Ivorian goals were almost trademarked as the property of Manchester City and Arsenal, respectively. However, when, for example, Tresor Mputu clawed a great goal back for the DRC, there was no mention of TP Mazembe despite their seismic contribution to African and world club football. It’s tiresome and disrespectful, and also says much about control of the “product”. It is unfortunate anchors and commentators of various backgrounds and genders representing all the major western media seem to stick to this script.

Post Script: That the St George FC’s stadium was largely bankrolled by Mohammed al Amoudi, a Saudi businessman who according to Forbes Magazine happens to be the richest black man in the world may be material for a whole CNN special or campaign. (BTW, below a reader, Arriam, reminds us Al Amoudi is partly of Ethiopian descent.)

Further Reading

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After losing its parliamentary majority for the first time, the African National Congress is scrambling to form a coalition government. The options are bleak.

Heeding the call

At the 31st New York African Film Festival, young filmmakers set the stage with adventurous and varied experiments in African cinema.