Politics, resistance and patronage: the African boycott of the 1966 World Cup and its ramifications

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The 1966 World Cup Finals are remembered primarily for on-field events, not least the host’s capture of the Jules Rimet trophy, the performances of the minnows of North Korea in reaching the quarter-finals and the Eusebio-inspired exploits of the tournament’s other debutants, Portugal. What is less prominent in this history but more significant in impacting the longer-term trajectory of the World Cup and the global game, are events off the field of play, specifically the decision of African nations to boycott the qualifying rounds of the tournament. This paper assesses the circumstances behind this boycott, both within FIFA and in the highly charged political climate that characterized the immediate post-colonial era. Particular attention is paid to the role of Ghana as the boycott's chief architect. Thereafter, I explore some of the intended and unintended consequences of the boycott, including its contribution to an ongoing transformation in the global governance of football.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)936-947
Number of pages12
JournalSoccer and Society
Issue number7-8
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 20 Oct 2019


  • Ghana
  • Boycott
  • Kwame Nkrumah
  • World Cup
  • Conferederation Africaine de Football
  • Federation Internationale de Football Association


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