Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Feet of the Chameleon
Ever wondered what makes African football tick? Ian Hawkey gives us an idea with this well written, wonderful insight into a continent brimming with footballing enthusiasm.
The chapters in "Feet of the Chameleon" deal with a number of issues, including the Maghrebin players who gravitated to France during the days of the French empire, a comparison of Liberia and DR Congo and the great players that have emerged from the continent: George Weah, Didier Drogba and Michael Essien; but also the likes of Sam "Baboon Shepherd" Shabangu.
The book is not exclusively a look at African football history, but also about how social and economic factors have had an effect on development of the game; and how the sport has attempted to overcome corruption and fight for a fairer share of the FIFA pie - culminating in the forthcoming South African World Cup next year.
Packed with interviews and written by a journalist who obviously has a real passion for the continent, it really opens your eyes to such things as the ''trade routes'' and how great African players are brought to Europe to play soccer. Still, the focus remains on how the countries have been criminally underrepresented in the globe's biggest football event.
While it focuses on times that are more recent, that is understandable as football didn't really begin to flourish until the mid 1950s; yet there is a tinge of sadness.
Attendances have taken a downward path, the club games are never able to compete with the big European Leagues and even the national team success will depend a lot on how successful 2010 is.
The struggle for African clubs to be heard amongst the number of high profile Premier League clubs is tough, but there is hope.
Fascinating, funny, beautifully written, and packed with dozens of little sketches and vignettes of famous players, clubs and games - this is a highly recommended read for anyone with an interest in football that extends beyond England.
• Pick up your copy from here...