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Date: 12 May 2009
From: Martha Saavedra

Special Issue of Politique Africaine (2010) - Football and Politics in Africa

Call for Proposals

The 2010 World Cup in South Africa has been heralded as a major milestone not only for South Africa, but for the entire African continent. As a bold alternative to Afro-pessimism, it marks "Africa" as an international player.

Moreover, FIFA and the organizers explicitly offer a vision which celebrates Africa's humanity, supposed to be embodied by Zakumi, the 2010 mascot who "symbolizes South Africa and the rest of the African continent through his self-confidence, pride, hospitality, social skills and warm-heartedness." Whether this vision will be the enduring legacy of 2010, remains to be seen. What is eminently clear is that the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa is
infused with political meaning, actions and aspirations at multiple

The occasion of the FIFA World Cup offers an opportunity to reflect on
the significance of association football in Africa and its relationships with politics. For this special issue of Politique Africaine, we seek articles that explicitly tackle the strong, yet often ambiguous relationships between football and politics in Africa whether experienced in South Africa, elsewhere on the African continent, or in African communities around the world.

Contributions may range from examinations of the quotidian politics of football to analyses of the international political economies of football; they may examine local teams, or global mega-events such as the African Cup
of Nations or the FIFA World Cup; they may analyze transnational
dynamics, or national peculiarities in the organization of football
and its public support. We invite papers which may deal with one or
several of the following topics:

- The relationships between local, national or international politics
and football teams, associations or federations. Darby has established
the significance of the growth of organized football at the
supra-national level in African decolonization and the anti-Apartheid
movement, as well as the importance of African football to internal
FIFA politics. In recent times, there have been several conflicts
between FIFA and national governments over 'interference' in national
football associations. Indeed, it is not uncommon for local or
national leaders to mobilize football as a political resource; hence
one might examine the link between football and partisan politics, or
the relationship between specific political leaders and the football

- The impact of political economies on football. The 'interferences'
of different political entities often result in corruption charges,
suspensions, or normalization committees, among other maneuvers in the
struggle over resources and control. One may also ask why some
national teams are structurally stronger than others, and how
resources are distributed among different clubs and a national team.
Moreover, there has been a decline in the fortunes of most African
national leagues and club teams concurrent with the commercial and
global media success of European leagues, such as the English Premier
League, La Liga, etc. This also highlights the importance of football
migration as well as its contradictions and relationship with
international politics and its history.

- The politics of gender and identity. The presence of Africans in
European football has crystallized debates over race and nationalism
within Europe. In addition, local, regional or national teams have
been utilized for the construction and representation of nationalism
and ethnicity. Papers may question political imaginations and
representations of football in Africa as well as the role and
influence of fans, fandom, nicknames of teams, or social practices of
fan cultures interrelated with local or national politics. What is
more, as in most of the world, football is a mainly masculine
endeavor. The women's game is growing, but still marginalized. Yet,
two of the three women worldwide who have led national association
have been African. Gender and identity are thus very much intervolved
with political power relations and its representations.

- Football as an arena of conflict, reconciliation and development.
Political violence and peace are also invoked in football. Football
has been seen as a force for reconciliation in South Africa, Rwanda,
Sierra Leone, Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire. However, it also has been a
channel for the strengthening of ethnic identities, tensions and
violence as seen at certain times in Kenya or even more brutally in
Rwanda. Apart from that, football has been increasingly utilized in
different forms of 'development' politics and has emerged over the
last decade as a 'new' tool for development by multilateral agencies,
states and NGOs. Football is invoked as a solution to social problems
including poverty, the AIDS pandemic, illegal drug use, post-conflict
reconstruction, refugees and gender inequality.

- Football, governance and politics of space and infrastructure. Alegi
has demonstrated how 2010, as a mega-event, provides a major example
of the politics of space played out through football as stadiums and
other infrastructure are developed. The relationship between
governance, political ideology and politics of space and
infrastructure was most obvious during the Apartheid regime in South
Africa. Other colonial and postcolonial governments in Africa have
implemented politics of space and infrastructure in sports and youth
politics which have been at times inclusive or exclusive, and which
have not only influenced developments in local and national football,
but which have also reflected different forms of governance.

One important task of this volume is to contribute to the effort of
documenting the relationship between football and politics on the
ground across time and space, emphasizing that there is not one
African experience, but many. Another task is to continue developing
the theoretical frameworks and methods to appreciate the ways in which
football advances political agendas as well as reflects political
relationships, both formal and informal, from the local level outwards
as it reverberates through and traverses across networks. In what ways
specifically are football and politics interwoven? How essential is it
to examine African football to understand African politics? Or is it a
mere window, a lens that helps to focus in on particular, telling
aspects? How important is football to politics? Likewise, is football
unique? Given the essence of the game and its particular grounded
historical manifestation, does it embody, represent, advance African
political experiences in ways different from other forms of leisure,
popular culture and social forms? Papers addressing these and other
aspects of the relationship between football and politics in Africa
are welcome.

Papers can be written in French, in English or Portuguese.

Please send an abstract of your paper of about 250 words to the
coordinators no later than 15th of June 2009.

You will be notified if your contribution has been accepted for the
submission of a full paper by 15th of July 2009.

Submissions of the full paper versions (7,500 words) are due on 1st
October 2009.


Martha Saavedra ( and Susann Baller
<small>"Follow the grain in your own wood.” ~ Howard Thurman</small>
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