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

A power crisis

Andre De Ruyter, the former CEO of Eskom, has presented himself as a simple hero trying to save South Africa’s struggling power utility against corrupt forces. But this racially charged narrative is ultimately self-serving.

Cinematic universality

Fatou Cissé’s directorial debut meditates on the uncertain fate and importance of Malian cinema amidst the growing dismissiveness towards the humanities across the world.

The meanings of Heath Streak

Zimbabwean cricketing legend Heath Streak’s career mirrors many of the unresolved tensions of race and class in Zimbabwe. Yet few white Zimbabwean sporting figures are able to stir interest and conversation across the nation’s many divides.


After winning Italy’s Serie A with Napoli, Victor Osimhen has cemented his claim to being Africa’s biggest footballing icon. But is the trend of individual stardom good for sports and politics?

Breaking the chains of indifference

The significance of ending the ongoing war in Sudan cannot be overstated, and represents more than just an end to violence. It provides a critical moment for the international community to follow the lead of the Sudanese people.

The magic man

Chris Blackwell’s long-awaited autobiography shows him as a romantic rogue; a risk taker whose life compass has been an open mind and gift to hear and see slightly into the future.

How to think about colonialism

Contemporary approaches to the legacy of colonialism tend to narrowly emphasize political agency as the solution to Africa’s problems. But agency is configured through historically particular relations of which we are not sole authors.

More than just a flag

South Africa’s apartheid flag has been declared hate speech by a top court. But while courts are important and their judgments matter, racism is a long and internationally entrenched social phenomenon that cannot be undone via judicial processes.

Resistance is a continuous endeavor

For more than 75 years, Palestinians have organized for a liberated future. Today, as resistance against Israeli apartheid intensifies, unity and revolutionary optimism has become the main infrastructure of struggle.

Paradise forgotten

While there is much to mourn about the passing of legendary American singer and actor Harry Belafonte, we should hold a place for his bold statement-album against apartheid South Africa.

The two Africas

In the latest controversies about race and ancient Egypt, both the warring ‘North Africans as white’ and ‘black Africans as Afrocentrists’ camps find refuge in the empty-yet-powerful discourse of precolonial excellence.