Football and Identity Politics In Ghana

Authored by: Paul Darby

Routledge Handbook of Sport and Politics

Print publication date:  October  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138792548
eBook ISBN: 9781315761930
Adobe ISBN: 9781317646679


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It has become somewhat of a truism to say that football in Africa is political. During the early twentieth century, the game featured prominently in the wider political, cultural and economic agendas of various colonial powers as they sought to entrench their hegemonic position on the continent. Subsequently, the Africanisation of the game was accompanied by its use as a powerful medium for anti-colonial politics and dissent. In the post-colonial era, African clubs and national teams became bulwarks for the wider political ambitions of a succession of African leaders as they sought to root fledgling nation-states in the international arena and accrue the political capital that came from association with successful football teams. Since then the game has continued to function as a space where local, regional, national and international politics are quite literally played out (Onwumechili and Akindes 2014; Alegi 2010; Armstrong and Giulianotti 2004). In the current decade the extent to which football connects to and intertwines with the political has been clearly visible and visceral. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in Egypt, where the game has become mired in post-revolution politics and deployed by oppositional factions to express their political views and conflicting identities. This has had damaging repercussions for football, with the Egyptian league being suspended on several occasions since 2011. Much more problematically, this has also led to significant loss of life inside Egyptian football stadia as was the case in Port Said in 2012 when 74 football fans died following rioting during a game between local club Al-Masry and their Cairo-based counterparts, Al-Ahly whose ‘ultras’ had been prominent in the protests which led to the overthrow of the former President, Hosni Mubarak (Dorsey 2015).

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