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A Ohio University Press Book

African Soccerscapes
How a Continent Changed the World’s Game

By Peter Alegi

A 2011 Choice Significant Title for Undergraduates

“A compact but thorough and informative account of the sport’s absorption and evolution across the African continent…. An ideal reader for undergraduate and graduate courses as well as for those individuals curious about the rise of football across Africa.”

Notes & Records

“Alegi’s concise and ingenious book is a timely reminder about the impact African players have had on global football and an affirmation of Africa’s mounting stature as a football powerhouse…. Alegi writes in a language that is accessible to non-specialists and casual readers…. For academia, instructors teaching undergraduate courses about global sports or sports in Africa could assign the book or selected chapters to students, who most likely will appreciate the material for its informative strength, brevity, and lucidity.”

African Studies Quarterly

“No account of African soccer would be complete without reference to the players themselves, and Alegi skilfully describes the migratory process that brought African players to Europe from the 1930s to the present day. He touches on issues such as racism and exploitation, but also on the success of such pioneering players as Arthur Warton, Ben Barek, Roger Milla, and George Weah.”

African Affairs

“Nobody understands the background to African soccer better than the Italian-American historian Peter Alegi. This World Cup is his moment. His African Soccerscapes crams daunting erudition, gleaned over many years of study of African football, into under 200 pages of history.”

Financial Times

From Accra and Algiers to Zanzibar and Zululand, Africans have wrested control of soccer from the hands of Europeans, and through the rise of different playing styles, the rituals of spectatorship, and the presence of magicians and healers, have turned soccer into a distinctively African activity.

African Soccerscapes explores how Africans adopted soccer for their own reasons and on their own terms. Soccer was a rare form of “national culture” in postcolonial Africa, where stadiums and clubhouses became arenas in which Africans challenged colonial power and expressed a commitment to racial equality and self-determination. New nations staged matches as part of their independence celexadbrations and joined the world body, FIFA. The Confédération africaine de football democratized the global game through antiapartheid sanctions and increased the number of African teams in the World Cup finals.

In this compact, highly readable book Alegi shows that the result of this success has been the departure of huge numbers of players to overseas clubs and the growing influence of private commercial interests on the African game. But the growth of women’s soccer and South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 World Cup also challenge the one-dimensional notion of Africa as a backward, “tribal” continent populated by victims of war, corruption, famine, and disease.

Peter Alegi is an associate professor of history at Michigan State University and the author of Laduma! Soccer, Politics, and Society in South Africa. He is an editorial board member of the International Journal of African Historical Studies and book review editor of Soccer and Society.   More info →

Table of Contents

  • List of Illustrations
  • Prologue
  • Acknowledgments
  • One: “The White Man’s Burden”
    Football and Empire, 1860s–1919
  • Two: The Africanization of Football, 1920s–1940s
  • Three: Making Nations in Late Colonial Africa, 1940s–1964
  • Four: Nationhood, Pan-Africanism, and Football after Independence
  • Five: Football Migration to Europe since the 1930s
  • Six: The Privatization of Football, 1980s to Recent Times
  • Epilogue: South Africa 2010: The World Cup Comes to Africa
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Series Editors’ Note
  • Index

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Retail price: $29.95, S.
Release date: February 2010
184 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights: World except Africa, and Continental Europe

Release date: February 2010
184 pages
Rights: World except Africa, and Continental Europe

Additional Praise for African Soccerscapes

“Via these outstanding works (Laduma! and African Soccerscapes), Alegi has placed African soccer on firm historiographical footing, while also popularizing a subject about which little was previously known beyond Africa’s borders.”

African Studies Review

“Alegi creatively and effectively uses soccer to tell the story of European domination and exploitation of Africa. Yet, he also shows us how Africans came to embrace the game imposed on them, and made it something distinctly African.”

International Journal of African Historical Studies

“Alegi has produced a cogent and absorbing history of soccer in Africa.”

Histoire Sociale / Social History

“(Alegi’s) latest book, African Soccerscapes: How a Continent Changed the World’s Game, is a must-buy. An astutely comprehensive overview of over 150 years of soccer in Africa, it contains many engrossing examples of just how much the sport has always been more than just a game across the African continent…. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.”

Marvin Close, author of More Than Just a Game: Football v Apartheid

“Peter Alegi’s African Soccerscapes is simply the best available overview of the history (of African soccer). Concise and to the point, you'll be through it before the round of 16 begins, having covered all the basics without forgetting the pleasures and the passions that animate African football.”

The Observer

African Soccerscapes…provides a great deal of nourishment for both casual observers and passionate followers of the game, in Africa and around the world. However, do not think that it is a book about soccer alone. It is a book about globalization, power, politics, economics, colonization, neocolonialism, media, and the dreams of millions of people around the world.”

Ecquid Novi: African Journalism Studies

“Few soccer books can offer the African perspective on the game as Alegi’s does here, taking a historical and economic approach to relate how British and French colonizers introduced soccer in Africa and how soccer has evolved there…. This will not be the most popular soccer book of the summer, but it's one of the more important ones.”

Library Journal

“This slim volume, from a scholar fast developing a reputation as a leading expert on the history of African soccer, has hallmarks of a high level research monograph but transcends the genre with its impeccably researched trawl through the development of the game on the continent…. (A)n important book, academic and authoritative in tone, and one that leaves the reader in no doubt of football’s importance in forging African identity and greatly enriching the global sport as a whole.”

thetwounfortunates blog

“Peter Alegi’s brilliant and rich exploration of the history of football in Africa is long overdue and fills an enormous gap. His fluid and absorbing narration is a testimony to the centrality of the ‘beautiful game’ in everyday life on the continent. Soccerscapes is an academically rigorous book that vividly reverberates with Alegi’s passion for Africa and for football, a game to which he has devoted so much of his life.”

Gerard Akindes, cofounder of Impumelelo, an interdisciplinary journal of African sports

“Given the huge interest in the 2010 World Cup, many will be looking for something to contextualize the African soccer scene. African Soccerscapes is excellent, with a clear framework and progression, and lots of interesting stories.”

Martha Saavedra, associate director of the Center for African Studies at UC Berkeley

“By putting the game in Africa in social, political, and historical context African Soccerscapes serves as a valuable reminder to be skeptical of simple narratives about South Africa 2010…. It is all much more complicated, and much more interesting, than that.”

Pitch Invasion: Exploring the Global Game

“In this wonderfully researched and richly textured narrative, Alegi tells the vital story of how football transformed Africa and Africa transformed football during the 20th century. The book is a must-read for all those wishing to gain a greater understanding of the past, and future, of the global game.”

Laurent Dubois, Duke University

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