Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Coming Up to Speed on African Football

Much of the world has a few fairly simple and common conceptions of African soccer.

Fast. Athletic. Almost too colorful for its own good. Technically sound. Tactically weak.

It is all that, but much more, and we now have a well-received book on the history of the African game on book shelves.

Well, on, anyway.

It is entitled "Feet of the Chameleon: The Story of Football in Africa."

As this review in the Johannesburg Times notes, the book comes out at a propitious time -- just six months before the biggest moment in African football history, the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

This is Africa's moment in the sun. Its chance to prove it can handle the biggest event in sports and perhaps even succeed on the pitch, as well. No fewer than six African teams are in the 32-team draw, and more than a few observers (including this one) are predicting an African team in the semifinals, for the first time.

It's as if most of the world has a blinkered view of African football. From the players exported to the big clubs in Europe and the once-in-a-quadrennium glimpse of this or that African side in the World Cup.

Those glimpses -- individual players, specific teams at one moment in time -- don't provide us with enough information to have an informed understanding of the African game.

The author of "Chameleon," Ian Hawkey, covers eras and countries, according to the review. And since Hawkey writes for the London Times ... we can be almost certain his prose is easy on the eye.

I will be buying this book. I have been fascinated by African football for a long time now ... its raw passions, stunning skill and often chaotic situations. I have mentioned on this blog, a time or three, that one of my unrealized ambitions is to see an edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, the semi-annual continental championship that brings Africa almost to a halt.

This is the time to buy the book and read, learn and inwardly digest the grand pageant that is African football.

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