Soccer and political (ex)pression in Africa: the case of Cameroon Chapter uri icon


  • Introduction Football, known as soccer in the United States, has affected lives on a local, national, regional and international level. It has caused tensions, wars and revolutions as well as created peace and united countries. Examples include Benito Mussolinis use of the World Cup of 1934 to promote his fascist doctrines, the 1969 Football War between El Salvador and Honduras, and the 1978 World Cup used as propaganda by the Argentinian junta to promote its regime. On the other hand, the World Cup of 2006 produced a rare sense of national pride among Germans, and the soccer diplomacy between Armenia and Turkey in 2008 and 2009 created a rapprochement after almost a century of acrimony following the massacre of Armenians by Turks during World War I. This contradictory soccer phenomenon is not strange to Africa. African countries that have organized or won the African Nations Cup (CAF ) have experienced a swell in patriotism or have been socially and economically uplifted (as seen in the cases of South Africa, Angola, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Nigeria). Unfortunately, the history of soccer in Africa is also marred by violence and retribution. Tensions between Egypt and Algeria in the 1990 International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) World Cup qualifier caused fights between fans, coaches and players of both nations, there was racial unease between northern and sub-Saharan African countries in Morocco at the 1988 CAF and a terrorist attack against the Togolese national team during the 2010 CAF in Angola. Academic studies of African soccer have gained momentum over the past fifteen years. Scholars and critics have focused most of their attention on the history, politics and philosophy of the sport as well as its socio-economic and cultural effects on peoples and nations. However, the study of soccers impact on larger political discourses and processes is still scarce in academic dialogues. Historian Jeffrey Hills (2003: 355) comments about the study of sport and politics particularly apply to African soccer. He claims that researchers are more interested in the politics of sport than the role of sport in political processes. He also reveals that the relation between sport and politics has been studied by sport historians rather than political historians. As the most dominant sport in Africa, soccer has and continues to be an important metaphor for ideologues of every political denomination. Patrick Vassori (1999: 34) once said, Le Football est un fer de lance idologique (Soccer is an ideological spearhead). Soccer constitutes a space of political expression and pressure, affirmation and manipulation, discourse and counterdiscourse, domination and resistance. This realism is contrary to the utopian precepts of FIFA and CAF, who view soccer as a competitive, recreational and apolitical space (Keep politics out of sport as a familiar slogan says). This chapter examines the relationship between soccer and politics in Cameroon from the perspective of post-colonial history. It shows how soccer, from the colonial and post-colonial eras to the present, has been misused or instrumentalized by colonizers, the State, its opponents and local politicians to generate political capital and advance political agendas.

author list (cited authors)

  • Lawo-Sukam, A.

complete list of authors

  • Lawo-Sukam, Alain

editor list (cited editors)

  • Falola, T., & Mbah, E.

Book Title

  • Dissent, Protest and Dispute in Africa

publication date

  • January 2017