Africa and the World Cup: Politics, Eurocentrism and Resistance

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The development of African football in the international playing arena during the last 25years has been such that several noted commentators have predicted that the name of anAfrican nation will soon be appearing on the World Cup trophy. [1] With the exceptionof Senegal’s valiant efforts in reaching the quarter-finals of the 2002 tournament, therelatively weak performances of the continent’s other representatives at the two mostrecent editions of the game’s premier international tournament would not appear to bearout this assertion. [2] The promise offered by Cameroon’s quarter-final appearance atItalia 90, Nigeria and Cameroon’s Gold medals at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic footballtournament and African successes in FIFA’s under-age competitions thus remainsunfulfilled. [3] However, the disappointment that greeted the early exits of most of theAfrican representatives in 1998 and 2002 should not conceal the fact that, in a politicalsense, both tournaments were a major victory for the African game. When one considersthat African representation at the World Cup has historically been restricted by aEurocentric bias at the heart of FIFA, the participation of five nations at both France 98and Japan/South Korea 2002 allows these tournaments to be viewed as significantmilestones for African football. Drawing on analyses of primary archival materials andother sources, this essay examines the ways in which the World Cup Finals, and morespecifically, the political debate surrounding the distribution of places for the tournamenthas come to represent one of the key arena’s in which Africa’s quest for global footballequity has manifested itself. [4] The essay concludes by assessing the extent to which thediscourse on Africa’s place at the World
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)883-905
JournalThe International Journal of the History of Sport
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2005


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