Africa United: How Football Explains Africa Paperback – 17 Feb 2011
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A fascinating account of how football lies at the very heart of African consciousness. --Waterstone's Books Quarterly
A journalist's continental odyssey . . . a beautiful piece of writing. --Simon Kuper, Financial Times
Football, along with births, deaths and marriages, is a universal human rite. In Africa, it is also inescapable...Africa United goes off the beaten track to visit some of the continent's footballing minnows. --Daniel Howden, Independent
Well-researched, insightful and sometimes shocking . . . this fascinating book stands as a fine snapshot of a turbulent sport in transition on the continent. --Scotsman
About the Author
Steve Bloomfield was the Independent's Africa Correspondent for the past two years, reporting from more than 20 countries in Africa. Now freelance he contributes regularly to Newsweek, Monocle and others and has published articles in GQ, Newsweek, the Melbourne Age and the Sunday Herald.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
It would nice to get a feel as to how football has developed more recently in the countries the author visited, but the book is still a worthwhile read.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
i bought this book 2 years ago but only just got round to reading it whilst on holiday on egypt (one of the books subjects). it was wonderful. Read morePublished on 19 Sept. 2012 by boromicky
This is a tremendously insightful book about the state of African football, and a must-read for any football fan. Read morePublished on 24 Aug. 2012 by Steven
The subtitle of Africa United, How Football Explains Africa, is an extreamly broad area and one which can't possibly be covered in one short book. Read morePublished on 13 Nov. 2010 by K. Wright
If you, like me, are intrigued by Africa and a football fan; the sort that eagerly anticipates the African Cup of Nations, then this is a book you must own. Read morePublished on 28 Oct. 2010 by A. Betts
My first encounter with African football - I suspect like many people now in their 40s - was the hapless Zaïre team at the 1974 World Cup. Read morePublished on 19 Oct. 2010 by Earthshaker
I was bought this book by a family member due to my interest in sport and the developing world. Steve Bloomfield has an excellant reputation and his writing style is engaging and... Read morePublished on 12 Oct. 2010 by DaveCru
Although clearly motivated by the arrival of the World Cup in South Africa in 2010, this is a thoroughly researched and well considered book by Steve Bloomfield, a journalist with... Read morePublished on 23 Aug. 2010 by M. V. Clarke
This is a terrific read which balances the football content and current affairs nicely. So little makes the news it tends to get pigeonholed as one mass. Read morePublished on 20 Aug. 2010 by Crazy Bald Heid