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Africa United: How Football Explains Africa Paperback – 20 May 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd (20 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847676588
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847676580
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 2.4 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 704,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'More than a sports book, Africa United tells how soccer keeps hope alive in across a troubled continent. It is an inspiring story of spirit, skill and doggedness in the face of hellish difficulties - in short it is the story of Africa itself.' Tim Butcher, author of BLOOD RIVER

About the Author

Steve Bloomfield has been based in Nairobi since 2006 reporting from twenty-five countries across Africa. A former Africa Correspondent for the Independent, he is now a corrspondent fo Monocle and has also written for Newsweek, GQ, Esquire and the Observer Sports Monthly. www.africa-united.co.uk

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By G. Brack on 21 July 2010
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Steve Bloomfield writes well, and his intimate knowledge of Africa is very clear without being pushed to the fore inappropriately. There are some very fine sections - I was particularly touched by his description of amputee football, for example - and he makes a number of points that would not be out of place in an academic account of Africa's progress. He avoids the trap of concentrating on the countries that are already well known, and he amply demonstrates the fervour felt for the game even in places that have been starved of success for some years.

His descriptions of corruption tend to be in the past tense. I cannot imagine that he has no current examples, but it is understandable that he might not wish to share those, given that parts of Africa are apparently very dangerous places to be, more so for foreigners than for locals.

I have two small reservations. The accounts of matches are sometimes in the style of a fanzine and jar with the rest of the writing. That is just a minor point, because they take up a small part of the book. The other doubt relates to the decision to write about Africa country by country rather than thematically. This means that, because the same issues arise in multiple places, there is inevitably some repetition, whereas a theme could compare countries, uniting or distinguishing as he thought fit. But this is a small quibble, and I'm not even sure I would have preferred a book written that way.

A book well worth reading for its insight and style.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Quiverbow TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 26 May 2010
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Maybe this excellent book from the pen of former Independent correspondent Steve Bloomfield could also carry the alternative suffix `How Football Saved Africa', as, after reading this, that is what appears to be holding the continent together. Taking a trip through thirteen of the 50 or so countries that make up Africa, Bloomfield has mixed the `big guns' of Egypt and Nigeria with those teams that will be perennial strugglers when it comes to qualifying for their own Africa Cup of Nations, such as Chad, Rwanda and Somalia, a country that had the shortest ever World Cup campaign lasting just 90 minutes in losing their pre-qualifying game to gain admission into the qualifying group stages.

However, this isn't a book solely about football. A large percentage of the pages are taken up with the politics of each featured country and how it affects the `beautiful game'. It may sound as if it's a cure for insomnia; it isn't. It is actually very informative in that department, explaining the tribal systems that make up a nation's infrastructure (or lack of it in most instances). It also shows what can happen to a nation's football team when the president/dictator decides to interfere, which is nearly always the case.

What is also unavoidable is how incompetent those same people appear to be. Whilst they are prepared to take their country's natural resources for their own gain, the rest of the nation they claim to love suffers from a chronic lack of investment, football included. (When the team wins, they take the credit; if the team loses, the manager is told not to return.) The redeeming feature is the Premier League.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Martyn VINE VOICE on 22 Jun. 2010
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Steve Bloomfield's book is a well-written, easily-digestible run through some of Africa's nations, using the narrative of football to provide a context for the political goings-on in those countries.

It's a concept that could easily appear a little glib or patronising, but his journalistic style, which combines reportage with historical background, steers clear of either.

He is able to describe the progress or otherwise of a football team in a match or over a campaign in the same style as the progress of a country towards (or more usually away from) democracy and fairness, and talk about how their national teams can at the very least offer a hope that many African nations, with their uneasy histories and tribal divisions, can see that there are ways of joining in a common cause.

The football reporting is done well and not, in my opinion, so over-detailed as to be off-putting for those not aren't very familiar with the game to be overwhelmed.

But most importantly, the football stories provide a bit of light relief and hope amongst the tales of, largely, mis-managed and corrupt nations, often at war with themselves or neighbours, and whose people are almost permanently unable to avoid being downtrodden.

It's what makes this book on a par with Richard Dowden's excellent, more detailed and very sobering 'Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles', which chapter after chapter details the often-depressing political and social histories of many African nations, but not always with the element of hope and lighter moments which Bloomfield brings to his book.
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