Soccer is the most popular sport on the African continent and also the best tool for bridging cultural divides. The round ball is the one item that binds people from Ras ben Sakka in Tunisia to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.
An complete cultural ecology is formed around the pursuit of objectives, including casual gamers, professional athletes, internet gamblers, ardent followers, pub owners, sidewalk sellers, announcers, and journalists.
For instance, the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) 2021 received over 157 broadcasts, with 65 million viewers in Nigeria alone. The bouts also received a lot of attention on social media, as they received 2.5 billion views on TikTok with the hashtag #afcon2021, for example.
Towns and cities hum with expectation on the days that soccer matches are played. Even when there is simply a passing connection to Africa, like as during World Cup games or Premier League contests, the game has a lasting impact on the continent.
However, there are still chances to make even bigger strides, boosting economic activity via riskier connections with regional communities. Soccer will become even more dynamic as its ties to the cultural and creative economy, which encompasses the entertainment industry, the food and fashion industries, the visual and performing arts, and tourism, grow.
When the 2010 World Cup was held in South Africa—the first time this international tournament was held on African soil—the vuvuzela came to symbolize the occasion. Its success gave manufacturers a boost and helped the sport’s culture spread over the world. The long plastic horn, which was allegedly originally used to rouse people for communal gatherings, is today utilized all over the world, not just during raucous political demonstrations but also soccer matches.
The options are endless and do not necessarily have a finite lifespan. Nigeria’s victory in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, United States, is still remembered both inside and outside of the nation. That victory helped unite a divided country. Even if in 2021 entertainment and sports (including soccer) made up barely 0.33% of Nigeria’s GDP, new initiatives and investments are beginning to reverse this trend, even luring African startup creators. The demand for tickets to Afcon qualification matches has increased as the popularity of the sport spreads throughout the nation and the region.
This widespread appeal presents several chances for cultural and economic growth. For instance, the inaugural season of Africa’s Beach Soccer League is now being played by various African nations. In an effort to promote “African culture, values, and civilisation,” the Festival of African Culture (FESTAC) event in Zanzibar also featured a beach soccer competition in May 2022.
Additionally, the first-ever Africa School Champions Cup, which included teams from six different African nations and drew 12,000 young people to see the game, was staged by FIFA, the world soccer body, in February in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF), the continent’s governing organization, has a crucial role to play in fostering a more strong soccer culture on the continent despite soccer’s popularity in Africa.
Men’s and women’s soccer may benefit from CAF’s impact thanks to leadership from the continent of Africa. This also entails making further connections with sectors including fashion, tourism, architecture, building, agriculture, and entertainment. The recently announced Africa Super League, according to CAF president Patrice Motsepe, wants to “transform the face of African football” by enhancing the game’s quality while simultaneously highlighting its cultural effect.
For instance, the Nigerian soccer team’s uniform sold out in stores all over the world during the 2018 World Cup due to the country’s huge popularity in the fashion sector. Soccer jerseys are increasingly a major fashion factor, and clubs and national teams are changing their emblems and patterns to reflect changing fashion trends. As a result, people who may not have otherwise developed a passion for the game become interested in it.
By procuring materials locally, ensuring that designers participate in the design of the kits, and ensuring that production is carried out in nations on the African continent, deliberate efforts should be taken to enhance supply chains. Additionally, considering their detrimental effects on regional designers and manufacturers, efforts should be intensified to eliminate counterfeit kits from the market.
The design and building of stadiums is another area where soccer and indigenous African traditions coexist. There has been much discussion regarding outdated facilities that are unfit to host sporting events. Following the end of the women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco this year, the CAF issued a ban on the use of 23 stadiums across the continent, including those in Liberia, Mali, Namibia, and Uganda, for international matches.
However, this generates more chances for cooperation. To assist with the renovation’s design, local artists might be enlisted. These artists are able to combine climate-resilient architecture while drawing inspiration from native and regional elements. This is a goal-oriented shot that cannot be missed. The Soccer City Stadium in Soweto, South Africa, for instance, is a fantastic illustration of what may occur when art, culture, and soccer are skillfully weaved together.
The gains will increase the appeal of African nations as vacation destinations for citizens of the continent, which will promote regional integration and economic expansion.
Additionally, there are consequences for increasing entertainment through a soccer engagement approach. Winners of the African Player of the Year Award Sadio Mané (Senegal) and Asisat Oshoala (Nigeria) are simply the most recent in a line of male and female players who tell fascinating and enticing tales about the worth of soccer to Africans.
Famous rapper, musician, and actress Sho Madjozi gained positive press in 2021 for taking part in a soccer tournament that had hip-hop artists playing against Maskandi (a type of traditional Zulu folk music from South Africa). Similar recognition has been given to the Nigerian programmer Victory Daniyam for creating what is maybe the first video game featuring African soccer stars as digital avatars.
These instances show that the timing is right to further the influence of African soccer at home and abroad. Soccer won’t have any rivals in terms of cultural penetration if these investments are combined with a deeper collaboration centered in the neighborhood ecosystem.
In addition to encouraging more people to participate in and support the sport, this will improve the product’s quality both on and off the field. As African teams become more competitive, more employment and commercial possibilities will be generated. In this case, the most popular sport in Africa has the potential to have a greater regional influence.