Whether it’s the Super Bowl, the Olympics, or the World Cup – billions of people around the world are fed a constant dose of sports entertainment. One of the purposes of these Mega Sports events is to take the People’s minds off their oppression and exploitation. People celebrate “their” team’s victories, while ignoring widespread economic stagnation, and environmental degradation. Their attention is diverted from multiple capitalist led wars across the globe, the murder and displacement of vast numbers of people, and lack of opportunity that lock them into poverty. Corporate controlled sports create illusory fantasies for the poor and lulls us into believing that we are somehow part of that fantasy–that we somehow win when “our team” wins; that we somehow benefit from the defeat of the rival team. Oppressed viewers identify with their favorite players, often regarding them as heroes. These sports events purposely create an ‘us versus them’ atmosphere, that bolsters national patriotism, while enriching the ruling elite (these events are always organized to make money for the rich). Mega sports are a tool for soft power (using fandom, the lure of riches and hatred for others) to promote the capitalist domination of the world.
National identity and patriotism are fostered to obscure our real identities. For example, almost every European and American Football club is led by People of African Descent pretending to be French, British or Columbian and denying their true African Identity. These events also exhibit national values, and capacity, even when those values do not serve the interests of the people. In short Mega Sports events are a tool of capitalism used to promote the interest of the rich and famous while causing confusion among the poor and exploited masses, they claim to represent.
It is in this context that African identity remains unclear among People of African Descent. We become tied emotionally to the country we live in or claim as our own. African identity is diminished in the interest of identification with wealthy countries that can afford to lure African players. Just as the ongoing loss of intellectual and technical capacity is labeled brain drain, African People also face a talent drain. African countries have long standing experience of their natural resources ending up serving capitalism. In sports it is no different. While football (the world’s most popular sport) unifies many cultures, its role is to serve as an instrument of colonial control. The interactions between African countries and their European counterparts especially in sports is detrimental because many regulatory institutions have served to reinforce or maintain European dominance over development of football (soccer) in Africa.
Of the major European leagues in France, Spain, Germany, England etc., players of African descent are the ones who make decisive impacts in games. The talent displayed in the European club leagues are not reflected in African national and local teams because of a lack of sufficient economic resources, lack of infrastructure and other related technology. Talented African players end up seeking opportunities outside the continent not only for better pay and lifestyle, but the training organizations and sports managers all facilitate the transfer of talent outside of the continent. Like economic migration, fleeing from conflict or hunger, people move towards greater economic opportunities. For instance, Ousman Dembélé and Kylian Mbappé are of Senegalese and Cameroonian descent respectively, and at the same time are key players to the French national team, the point being that skilled players of African descent are representing France on the world stage, a country that has constantly played a role in the socioeconomic and political destabilization of many African countries. The same thing goes for countries like Germany, Spain, and Italy.
Football, while an imported sport to the African continent, quickly became one of the realms within which Africans sought to express and assert independence. With European ownership of stadia and equipment at the time, 1949 saw the establishment of an independent African football association in Zimbabwe which triggered a break from European regulation of the sport in Africa. The establishment of the Black Stars of Ghana, the Elephants of Ivory Coast, and the Nigerian Green Eagles were also reflections of newfound African pride following the wave of independence struggles of the late 20th century. It is important to note the connection between football, nationalism and African identity following the post-colonial era.
In 2009, Ancestor Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe posed with the UAE world cup trophy and said “Britain does not have any gold, and neither does Germany… I am tempted to think that it came from Africa, and from Zimbabwe, and was taken away by adventurers and shaped into this cup…I should not let it go because this could be our gold.” This kind of political awareness is sorely lacking in current discourse about African political and socio-economic liberation, especially in the fields of sports and entertainment.
This perspective is lost on many because sports and other forms of entertainment are presented as apolitical and meant only for ‘enjoyment’. Leaving out the sociocultural and developmental impacts of talent drain and a conflicted identity. In the struggle for political consciousness in Africa, the field of sports must not be ignored. Countries with economic influence seek to use the soft-power dynamic causing African people to take representation, national identity and pride for granted, all for a chance at better economic opportunities. These are the same ways in which African musicians, artists, academics etc. are bought off by ‘western’ institutions by the lure of progress (strictly monetary) while the nations of origin experience real losses.
Africans must address our internal contradictions and ingrained capitalist values that teach us to place our individual advancement above the people. We must not be a hindrance to our own progress. We must acknowledge the many ways imperialism and neocolonialism sabotage not just our senses of identity, but also our allegiance to our African roots and our People.
The All-African People’s Revolutionary Party organizes to liberate and unify our continent and our People around the world. We are fighting for our Continental national liberation; therefore, African national consciousness is a prerequisite. It is only when Africans, wherever they may be around the world, understand that their destiny is tied to Africa that we will make a considerable leap forward in our struggle. The forces of imperialism know this, and that is why they do everything in their power to stop that consciousness. As usual, political education is always at the forefront as a solution. We must teach our people about Africa, because once they know their mother Africa, they cannot help but be proud to represent her. Africa is our home; Africa is our mother. And at all times, and under all circumstances, she must be primary.
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