Soccer, Nationalism, and Globalization

The African Activist Association presents a soccer conference with presentations and a panel discussion, as well as a film screening of Le Ballon d'or (The Golden Ball).

Wednesday, May 31, 2006
3:30 PM - 9:00 PM
161 Dodd Hall & A18 Haines Hall
UCLA campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095

   Image for Calendar Button

3:30 - 6:45 PM -- Conference and Discussion in 161 Dodd Hall
6:45 - 7:30 PM -- Reception at the UCLA School of Law Courtyard
7:30 - 9 PM -- Film Screening of *Le Ballon D'or (The Golden Ball) in A18 Haines Hall
*Special thanks to the New York African Film Festival for permission to screen Le Ballon d'or -

Come and enjoy a day of soccer, scholarship, good food, good information, and good fellowship!
Stay for the entire day, or join us for what your schedule permits.

Sandwiched between the 2006 African Cup of Nations and the FIFA World Cup, UCLA's African Activist Association brings you an exciting evening of discussions by scholars and athletes focusing on the interaction between politics, culture, and global economics on African and international soccer.

Conference Presenters:

  • Gerard Akindes, Ohio University, "African Football Labor Migration to Europe and the Role of Football Academies"
  • Jude Akudinobi, University of California, Santa Barbara, "Once Upon A Time: Ballon d'or, Fintar O Destino, and the Field of Dreams"
  • Samuel Mchombo, University of California, Berkeley, “The Role of Soccer in Identity Formation: National vs. Global”
  • Mimi Osei-Agyemang, Columbia University, "African Women's Soccer and Nationalism: Memoirs of a Black Queen"
  • Michael Schatzberg, University of Wisconsin, Madison, “Soccer and the Sporting Imaginary: Rwanda vs. Uganda 2003"

A reception and film screening (Le Ballon d'or, Guinea, 1994) will follow the discussion. This event will be the perfect launch for all World Cup enthusiasts.

*Le Ballon D'or (The Golden Ball)  -- Comedy/Drama
Cheik Doukouré's second feature celebrates the powerful dream of becoming an African soccer star, a dream that is pursued by kids in innumerable small villages who play in the dust with bare feet and footballs made of rags. A thoroughly engaging adventure story, Le ballon follows Bandian, a boy-wonder on the soccer field, from his village in the bush through a series of hilarious and not so funny contretemps to superstardom in France. He's assisted on his way by his many in his hometown, a village doctor; a young French doctor (Agnés Soral) who gives him a real football — the “golden” ball of the film's title, a dwarf (Aboubacar Koita) who offers him a brother's love, soccer star Karim (played by player Salif Keita), and a canny businessman with an eye for the main chance.

Presentation Abstracts:
Gerard Akindes: “African Football Labour Migration to Europe and the Role of Football Academies”
The dramatic increase in the migration of African footballers to Europe in the last 10 years has given rise to a growing popular discourse that has invariably explained this process in terms of neo-colonial exploitation. Along the same though, key academic studies present the migration process as one that has involved varying degrees of neo-colonial exploitation and impoverishment of African football.

This paper builds on this body of work by analysing one of the key features of the increased trading of African football talent since the 1990s, the establishment of football ‘academies' in Africa. Particular emphasis is placed on constructing a typology of academies in Africa. The paper concludes by assessing the extent to which the role of these academies in facilitating the export of Africa's football talent can be explained in terms of broader neo-colonial exploitation and impoverishment of the developing world. Before turning to these central concerns it is important to establish some context by addressing some of the key aspects of African football labour migration to Europe. Thus, the first half of the article provides an overview of the African ‘talent drain' to Europe, outlines the supply and demand dynamics that have underpinned it and critically analyses the system of recruitment that has developed to extract African players from the continent.

Jude Akudinobi: "Once Upon A Time: Ballon d'or, Fintar O Destino, and the Field of Dreams"
The phenomenal successes of African footballers in European leagues raise complex questions of identifications, culture, and community. Whereas the narrative elements of  ‘Fintar or Destino' (Fernando Vendrell, 1998) find anchors in the predicaments of not following one's aspirations,  ‘Le Ballon D'Or' (Cheik Doukoure, 1994), through its poor-boy-makes-good framework, revels,  literally, in chasing the dreams of stardom. Given the immense popularity of the game in Africa, more recently stoked by new media  technologies of communication, especially satellite and cable, certain dynamics of ‘globalization',  increased prospects of fame and fortune for the players and, in some cases, flamboyant lifestyles, these dreams are not mere escapist fantasies but veritable scenarios through which certain struggles (collective and individual) and dramas about contemporary African social milieus are played out. As such, it would be argued that both films, given the intricate relationships between Africa and Europe, the local and the global, nationalism and  transnationalism, are not generic sports films; their constitutive elements explore what ‘the beautiful game' has come to mean for Africans.

Mimi Osei-Agyemang: “African Women's Soccer and Nationalism: Memoirs of a Black Queen”
Retired Ghanaian National Team Member, Mimi Osei-Agyemang, reflects upon her experience as a female footballer in Africa.  Mimi describes how the sport of soccer can be synonymous with the concept of nation in Africa, transcending gender and state boundaries.  She discusses how soccer has the unique potential to unite and empower African women.

Michael Schatzberg: “Soccer and the Sporting Imaginary: Rwanda vs. Uganda, 2003”
Richard Giulianotti introduced the termed “soccerscape” to stand for “the geo-cultural circulation of football's constituent parts: players and coaches, fans and officials, goods and services, or information and artefacts.”  Significantly, however, this definition omits the cognitive and ideational dimension.  Missing, therefore, is the realm of the sporting imaginary, the subjacent domain where the deeper political and cultural understandings of football may be found and excavated.  This essay focuses on a brief account of the second leg of an African Cup of Nations qualifying match between Uganda and Rwanda that took place in Kampala on 7 June 2003.  Reactions to the outcome (unfavorable to Uganda, 0-1) highlight some of the interplay between science and sorcery as common modes of causal understanding.  For many people, acceptance and belief in sorcery as a causal mode of understanding simply reflects a localized and occasionally hegemonic version of common sense.  It provides explanations of outcomes on the pitch (and elsewhere), and thus also constitutes a mode of action under certain circumstances.  For others, however, sorcery is a source of disorder and uncertainty that is also reflected in the material, organizational, and political dimensions of the sport's structure.  In turn, the disjuncture between the sport's orderly, transparent, and fair moral structure contrasts strikingly with the chaos, opacity, and corruption in most of the soccerscape that is all too apparent.

Speaker Bios:
Gerard Akindes is the Technology Coordinator for the College of Health and Human Services at Ohio University. He holds two Masters in Sports Administration and African Studies. Earlier this year he organized the third annual conference on Sports in Africa at Ohio University titled, "Women Gender and Sport in Africa." He coordinates the Sports In Africa initiative at Ohio University which includes, Impumelelo, the Interdisciplinary Electronic Journal of African Sports, an online Resource Center and the organization of workshops and conferences on African Sports.

Jude G. Akudinobi earned his PhD in Cinema-Television from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and teaches in the Departments of Film Studies and Black Studies, at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His works on African cinema have appeared in ‘Iris', ‘The Black Scholar', ‘Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art', ‘Social Identities', ‘Third Text', ‘Research in African Literatures', ‘Meridians', amongst other publications and anthologies. The founding film editor of the internationally refereed scholarly journal, ‘African Identities', Dr. Akudinobi is, currently, at work on certain hitherto examined aspects of African Cinema, and has written a number of screenplays including an adaptation (with Gerard Pigeon) of Aime Cesaire's ‘The Black Tempest'. His recently completed digital short documentary, ‘Retracing Historical Signatures', which, through the works of a young Zimbabwean artist, Obed Muringani, challenges pervasive definitions of African art, is in post-production.

Sam Mchombo is an Associate Professor of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. Before teaching at Berkeley, he held an appointment as a Senior Lecturer in Chichewa and Linguistics at the University of Malawi, where he pioneered the Department of African Languages and Linguistics. In 1984 he first traveled to the United States with the sponsorship of the Fulbright Foundations as a Visiting Scholar at MIT and Stanford. Mr. Mchombo has written numerous articles in journals such as Linguistic Analysis, Natural Language Theory and also contributed a chapter, entitled "The Democratic Transition in Malawi: Its roots and prospects," in Coping with Ambiguity: Political Transformation in Sub-Saharan Africa in the Late 20th Century (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc. 1998.). His research interests lie in syntax, African linguistic structures and Swahili.

Myralyn Osei-Agyemang is a graduate of Columbia University (B.S and M.S.) and a former player for Ghana's Women's World Cup 2002 Team. She is also a future UCLA African Studies and Public Health student.

Michael Schatzberg is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Director of Wisconsin's African Studies Program.  His primary research and teaching interests are in African politics, comparative politics, and political culture.  He has written numerous books and articles including Political Legitimacy in Middle Africa: Father, Family, Food (Indiana University Press, 2001), and The Dialectics of Oppression in Zaire (Indiana University Press, 1988).  His current research deals with the politics, economics and culture of football in sub-Saharan Africa.

The African Activist Association members are UCLA students dedicated to providing an organization on campus where Africanists across disciplines can work together to increase awareness of issues about and on the African continent and the diaspora and they are committed to providing a forum for discussion of these issues.

Cost : Free and open to the public; parking is available for $8.

African Activist Association310-825-3686 or

Sponsor(s): African Studies Center, Latin American Institute, UCLA International Institute, Globalization Research Center - Africa, Darfur Action Committee, Comparative Literature, Graduate Division, Ufahamu, Graduate Student Journal of African Studies, New York African Film Festival, Inc.