Last updated: 28 january, 2010 - 19:08 GMT


Africa Kicks

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Football was never simply a game in Africa. It arrived in the mid 19th Century across the coast of the continent as a by-product of empire building.

British, French, Portuguese priests, sailors, soldiers and missionaries brought a game unseen and not played by any in Africa. Traditional sports abounded but there is no record of anyone kicking a ball until the brutal transformation of the continent.

South Africa football fans at a friendly against Zimbabwe

Will the World Cup see fans of all races and colours unite?

As the newly industrialised and burgeoning port cities, gold mines and shanty towns sprang up, Africans first watched and then began their own games of football. It proved vital in both providing a space for self organisation and even resistance.

From Algeria to Ghana, Zambia and beyond, as the empires crumbled, football became essential to nation building.

At the height of the bitter Algerian struggle for independence with France, the FLN ordered its best players - those playing at the highest level in the French league and soon to depart for the World Cup, to form an Algerian team.

A team without a country and only able to play in exile, but whose exploits brought home the struggle for many in France and abroad.

Football builds identity

Ghana's first leader Kwame Nkrumah saw football as an essential tool in projecting a Pan African identity. The Black Stars, their name consciously evoking the deeds of Marcus Garvey, brought glory and attention to the newly emerging nation.

The struggle for Africa's place in world football has been intensely political and has reshaped not just the politics of the game but the globalisation of sport. It is a story rife with intrigue and possible corruption.

When the teams and fans finally flock to South Africa, how much will they actually know about the unique story and struggle that football has provided in this nation?

All these answers and more as BBC African sports presenter Farayi Mungazi hears from veterans like Ghana's CK Gyamfi who took to the field of play with Nkrumah's exhortation to win for the nation and the continent ringing in his ears.

Former President Kenneth Kaunda, whose childhood love for the game drove his obsession with Zambia's national team, nicknamed the KK 11.

Stars and former stars like Abedi Pele, Neil Tovey, Emmanuel Adebayor, Nii Lamptey and 'Screamer' Tshabalala describe their own personal odysseys, and administrators and officials reveal the struggle for the game in the face of big business, war and corruption.

In part four of this series, Farayi Mungazi explores the racial politics behind South African football. He looks ahead to the 2010 World Cup and asks whether football can unite the nation.

First broadcast on 29 January 2010.

More from this series

    • Follow the epic history of African football

    • Why an African team has not yet won the World Cup

    • The impact of African players on Europe's game

    • Can the World Cup help racial unity in SA?

Listen to the podcast

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