Football is maybe the most popular sport in the world, it is watched and played around the world. Even countries like China are showing an interest in the sport and trying to develop their league with international players. But due to the global domination of the sport it can also be a tool used to unite countries and people, maybe even better than politics can.
As the world celebrates the 121th anniversary of Ethiopia’s victory at the Battle of Adwa over the Italian colonizers, historians such as Professor Ayele Bekeri of the Meqele University tell of the impact of that triumph as a kickstarter to Pan-Africanism and the global movement to liberate people of African descent from the yokes of colonialism.
Then came the founding of the Organization of African Union in Addis Abeba (OAU) which had a strategic target of struggling to free all the colonized states step by step.
The idea was to help unite African countries to gain freedom in the continent. Colonialism was being systematically dismantled, with the exception of the apartheid system in South Africa which was finally brought down by Nelson Mandela and his compatriots.
After the Confederation Africaine de Football (CAF) was established, aparthied South Africa was kept out of this sporting event.
The struggle continued until all African countries were freed. Soon newly liberated African countries were participating in the Olympics, giving them a world stage on which to shine.
But it was football that has been able to bring people together. When it is World Cup season, all around the globe the excitement and football fever takes over countries. It is a colorful event that brings together countries from all corners of the world in a way that only a few other events can.
Football has become popular with people on all levels. In Ethiopia, the Premier League competitions like the English Premier League, Italian Serie A or the Spanish La Liga are followed religiously. On the weekends, fans of the sport make their way to sports bars and viewing centers to catch the matches live.
Thanks to the advancement of the communication technology all these games are available on TV or online through the internet.
Although African leaders hold conferences and sign bilateral or multilateral agreements, there is nothing like football that brings people together, whether it be playing or watching the game.
Players like Roger Milla, George Weah, Samuel Eto’o and Emmanuel Adebayor have managed to penetrate European football and become household names in the world of international and African football, playing a pivotal role.
We remember that not long ago black players were suffering from segregation in the world of football. But due to their talents, big teams have found it hard to play without them. African players now have lucrative careers and the teams want to attract these players because they help them make more money.
Because of natural factors, the players can only play for a limited amount of years. Top players and coaches are facing problems to make decisions. The Chinese League is offering very high payments and tempting benefits for players. Some call this trend the New Chinese Imperialism. Judging by the amount of money the Chinese League investments on recruiting players the future of European football might be in jeopardy.
Now even governments are investing in infrastructures like stadiums and training centers that can offer all types of facilities for sports academies where youngsters get training in various fields.
Nonetheless, many football fans are not only interested in the final score of the games. They want the entertainment – they meet up with friends have a beer and talk about the game.
Sarcastic remarks and ridiculing comments are thrown around. While watching some football matches, fans yell instructions to the players through the TV to pass the ball or to scold the referee.
The aggressive support of a fan might provoke fans of the opposite team to engage in physical fights, trading of slanders and abuses that ends up in someone getting hurt or property being damaged.
Many African countries strive for democratic rules written in their constitution, but these rules are ignored by the governments. A political unification of the continent remains a pipe dream.
But football unites people all over the world. Football is something most people regardless of age, gender, religion, and race have in common.
Football is for all.
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